WASHINGTON DC —
Although not many ordinary people know about the newly-nominated Zanu PF vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, he has been in the news on a number of times – all for the wrong reasons.
Mphoko was on the news in 2003 when he almost caused a diplomatic row with Botswana after he was accused of assaulting a reporter for Botswana’s Sunday Tribune, Hlopniphani Chengeta.
Chengeta filed criminal charges but Mphoko was saved by diplomatic immunity.
A member of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Botswana chapter, Ryder Gabatuse, told Studio 7 on Thursday that they were surprised to hear that he had been nominated vice president despite that incident.
Chengeta at the time said that Mphoko "grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and held me against the wall. One of my colleagues managed to pull him off."
In 2009, Mphoko was again in the news after he told a workshop in Botswana that the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s by the government, which left over 20,000 people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces dead and maimed, was a western conspiracy theory, thus earning the nickname “Gukurahundi Envoy”.
Mphoko, an ex-combatant who fought in the guerilla war of the 1970s, is also alleged to have verbally attacked human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, during that meeting accusing her and other discussants of being sell-outs.
Mphoko was not available for comment as his mobile phone was not being answered.
When contacted for comment, Mtetwa confirmed the incident but refused to be interviewed saying she is not a politician.
VOA Studio 7 reached independent political analyst Dinizulu Macaphulana, who said President Mugabe only chose Mphoko as his deputy for his personal political expediency.
“(President) Mugabe chose Mphoko because he wanted someone he could use to stop Simon Khaya Moyo who was becoming too ambitious,” he said.