BULAWAYO – Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s political life and much-disputed war credentials are set to come under more scrutiny in the coming weeks and months after Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu asserted that the gaffe-prone VP had deserted the war and his comrades during the liberation struggle.
Refuting recent State media attempts to “vanish” Mphoko’s war credentials, and describing the VP’s war record as “dubious”, Zapu regional spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa also said yesterday that attempts to use Dabengwa to spin positive stories in favour of “the uncleanable” Mphoko would not succeed.
“Instead of reporting on the recent Lookout Masuku memorial, the State media sought to drag the nation into filthy succession dogfights in the fractured Zanu PF and also sought to use Dabengwa’s name to clean the uncleanable and improve Mphoko’s image and dubious war credentials.
“It is, however, necessary at this juncture for Zapu to set the record straight about this whole issue and … Mphoko’s status according to Zapu,” a miffed Maphosa thundered.
Delving into history, Maphosa said Mphoko, whose war-time nom-de-guerre was Report, had together with other Zipra fighters such as Tommy Ndebele, been left behind in Mozambique in the mid 1970s on specific assignments.
“Mphoko’s assignment, as chief of logistics at that time, was to await the delivery of arms from East Germany, arms and equipment which had been given to Zimbabwe People’s Army to be split between the two armed forces.
“Mphoko was supposed to get the Zipra forces’ (Zapu’s liberation wing) allocation of the weapons and ensure their safe passage for deployment in the Gonarezhou Park through to Malipati,” he said.
Ndebele had subsequently been killed, allegedly by Zanla forces who did not want him to penetrate the areas he was assigned to, in the Malipati front.
Without mincing his words, Maphosa asserted that Mphoko had deserted the war, an assertion that the VP has previously strongly denied, including going to the extent of trying to sue Zimbabwe’s leading daily newspaper, the Daily News, over the issue.
Maphosa added that in one of his war-time assignments, Mphoko was supposed to return to Zambia, to report to his superiors, which he never did.
“Mphoko remained in Mozambique for only one assignment and a sane person will know it doesn’t take over four years to only receive a single consignment of weapons during a war of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia proportions.
“Zipra has no idea what became of the weapons and equipment he was assigned to take care of when he was left behind in Mozambique.
“Zipra and Zapu never saw or heard from him since then, only for him to resurface in 1980 after the country attained independence, having been last with Zipra in 1976,” Maphosa said.
Among some of the people who have previously stated that Mphoko diverted weapons and deserted the war are combative former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda, and former War veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa.
Following Sibanda’s claims, Mphoko dragged the Daily News to the court demanding a whopping $50 million, in a defamation case that he has since lost with costs, after he failed to appear for the pre-trial conference in person.
The Daily News, which described as “ridiculous” Mphoko’s claim, had lined up a number of high-profile witnesses in its defence, in a matter that the newspaper said it was looking forward to with relish.
Rather curiously too, Mphoko has to date not formally moved to either challenge the open source of the newspaper’s original story, Sibanda, on his claims, or take him to court — choosing instead to take on the Daily News.
Mutsvangwa has also since sensationally claimed that Mphoko deserted his comrades in Mozambique at the height of the liberation struggle to enjoy life with his then wife-to-be, Laurinda — an allegation that Zapu has now formally corroborated.