The recent appointments of Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko have generated much debate. Of particular interest has been the succession issue and the rise of VP Mphoko, who — as a diplomat —had not been at the forefront of public politicking.
The Sunday Mail Acting Editor Mabasa Sasa spoke to Government spokesperson Professor Jonathan Moyo, who is the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, to get a clearer picture of the recent developments and their implications.
Q: Cde Minister a number of media outlets have been awash with reports that the appointment of VP Mnangagwa, who is currently Acting President, has resolved the succession problem in Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe. Is that the official position in Government?
A: In the first place, Zanu-PF does not have a succession problem in so far as the so-called succession problem is based on the presumption that President Mugabe should designate his successor.
It would be unconstitutional and indeed undemocratic for the President to do that.
As such, those who want the President to designate a successor are either charlatans or enemies of constitutionalism and democracy.
Ironically, these same forces would be the first to jump up and down making all sorts of noises if the President were to designate anyone as his successor.
In the second place, your question is significant only in so far as it confirms that there are some people out there who, for irrational reasons best known to themselves, are bent on confusing an appointment with an anointment or who do not understand the difference between the two.
Neither the Zanu-PF constitution nor the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe has a provision for an anointment of a successor. But both provide for the appointment of vice-presidents.
In the case of the Zanu-PF constitution, one must win election to the Central Committee before being eligible for consideration for appointment as Vice-President and Second Secretary of the party.
And in the case of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the current succession provision does not allow for automatic elevation but requires the political party of the previous incumbent to nominate the successor in accordance with its internal constitutional procedures; and the Zanu-PF constitutional procedure provides for the convening of an Extraordinary Congress to elect a successor should that be necessary.
What this means is that the President can neither appoint nor anoint a successor in terms of both the Zanu-PF and the State constitution.
Happily both constitutions have very clear and well-grounded provisions for succession as to render utterly inconsequential, all the idle talk that Zanu-PF has a succession problem.
Anyone who wants to succeed President Mugabe will have to win the hearts and minds first of the membership of Zanu-PF and then of Zimbabweans.
There’s nothing less or anything more.
Q: But just the other day Acting President Mnangagwa seemed to be describing the period since his appointment as a “new era”, thereby implying a succession transition is underway Cde Minister…
A: That suggestion is in your mind and not in what Acting President Mnangagwa said.
The fact that we are in a new era is indubitable.
What needs to be unpacked is the content of the new era. Those who think it’s about succession are mistaken.
What is new about this era is that the 6th Zanu-PF National People’s Congress resoundingly rejected the politics of two or more centres of power that had taken root in the party over the last decade or so.
Notwithstanding her rhetoric to the contrary, a major distinguishing feature of the Joice Mujuru vice-presidency was the systematic abuse of the power and authority of her office in pursuit of constructive disloyalty to President Mugabe whom she and her cabal of quislings were determined to depose by any means available.
What you should understand here is that the Mujuru power grab was based on the abuse of the authority of the vice presidency as an elective office that was a potential and real centre of power.
That is how things played out between December 2004 and December 2014.
The Zanu-PF Constitution has been amended, not by President Mugabe but by the party’s 6th National People’s Congress, to root out the structural defect that made it possible for a VP to abuse his or her election to setup an alternative centre of power to compete with the President and First Secretary of the Party.
In this regard, we have a new era. There’s another important sense in which we have a new era. Structurally speaking, when a vice president uses an alternative centre of power to compete with his or her boss, the result is policy gridlock.
It is for this reason that, for example, that Zim-Asset was very difficult to implement over the past year. And this kind of gridlock gets worse when the competition becomes, as it did during former VP Mujuru’s decade, factionalised.
The ensuing factionalism assumes the form of an organised opposition to the President and his policy programmes thereby generating a running conflict that harms the public good and national interest.
The good news is that the ruling party has put the structural enablers of factionalism behind, and doing so surely makes for a new era.
The essence of this new era is that both Government and governance are not about filling this or that position in order to use it to grab power for purposes such as succession but that they are for service delivery to enable businesses to generate wealth and national income to create employment to uplift the livelihoods of citizens and residents.
As we speak, this requires all of us from the vice presidents downwards to consciously and deliberately assist President Mugabe who has the solid electoral mandate to govern our country and who has directed that we prioritise the accelerated implementation of Zim-Asset in accordance with the resolutions of the 6th National People’s Congress.
Put bluntly, we have a duty to assist President Mugabe to consolidate and cement his legacy through service delivery promised in the Zanu-PF 2013 election manifesto upon which President Mugabe’s electoral mandate is based.
Q: Moving on to VP Mphoko, there’s been talk in some circles that his appointment is a violation of the 1987 Unity Accord, that the VP ceased being a member of PF-Zapu well before Zimbabwe’s Independence. Has there been such a violation of the Unity Accord? Is there any truth to the allegation that VP Mphoko quit PF-Zapu and is thus ineligible for his present appointment?
A: Well, Article 4 of the historic 1987 Unity accord clearly stipulates that the President and First secretary of Zanu-PF should appoint two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries of Zanu PF: one from the former Zanu and another from the former Zapu.
There cannot be any serious debate whatsoever that VP Mphoko is from former Zapu and that he was in the Zipra hierarchy.
Also, there’s no evidence that can be objectively and independently corroborated to suggest that VP Mphoko quit Zapu or was expelled there-from before or after our country’s heroic Independence in 1980. This is the factual position.
Q: Related to that, Dumiso Dabengwa has called into question VP Mphoko’s suitability for the posting, citing his employment history. In particular, there has been the suggestion that VP Mphoko’s work for the Central Intelligence Organisation is at loggerheads with the principle of appointing a former PF-Zapu member to the post of VP. What is Government’s response to this claim?
A: I have already said that there can be no debate or doubt that VP Mphoko is a former Zipra leader with a distinguished service record in the liberation struggle.
His appointment as VP is therefore well within the four corners of the Unity Accord.
Government is as very clear about that as are the people of Zimbabwe in general and surviving members of former Zapu and Zipra in particular.
Otherwise, and to be frank with you, many Zimbabweans who have had respect and sympathy for Dumiso Dabengwa, and I consider myself among these, are very disappointed about his manifestly reckless response to VP Mphoko’s appointment.
It is most unfortunate that a stalwart of our liberation struggle, more so one of Dabengwa’s historic stature, has chosen to come out sounding very trivial and immature.
The record will show that VP Mphoko acknowledges and respects Dabengwa’s contribution not only to our country’s liberation as a Zipra commander under whom VP Mphoko served, but also acknowledges and respects Dabengwa’s contribution to the Unity Accord that we are commemorating tomorrow.
What VP Mphoko has queried is Dabengwa’s current political position from which he has found it fit to work with political elements whose political project is opposed to the values, ideals and objectives of the liberation struggle that Dabengwa himself fought for so well along with his Zipra and Zanla comrades.
VP Mphoko finds it difficult to understand how and why Dabengwa, his acknowledged and respected heroic Zipra commander, apparently has no qualms to abuse the names of Zapu and Zipra to justify working with sell-outs today.
This is a challenge that Cde Dabengwa must take seriously without resorting to insults that make him sound so immature for someone with his liberation credentials.
Dabengwa’s immaturity in his mishandling of this matter risks exposing him as being petty and jealous about a former subordinate in the liberation struggle who is today holding an important position of national responsibility.
Pettiness and jealousy are the stuff of counter-revolutionaries and quislings and there are many comrades who would not like to see Dabengwa continuing in that category.
Ultimately, Dabengwa and others from the Matabeleland region that think like him must understand that, in terms of the Unity Accord, the VP appointment drawn from the former Zapu is not a personal, partisan, tribal or regional position but a national assignment.
Matabeleland has been regionalised and tribalised for too long by politicians who have not done anything for the region beyond working for their own personal benefit.
The time has come for Matabeleland to become national in both its character and content.
VP Mphoko brings that promise in a very refreshing way.
As such, he does not need to be pulled down but to be supported by everyone — beginning with the people in Matabeleland.
As VP Mphoko’s former commander in Zipra during the liberation struggle, Dabengwa will do himself a lot of good by leading the way in support of VP Mphoko to make a positive change not only in the region but also in the country.
Dabengwa must understand that just like a teacher who does not support his or her rising student is a charlatan, so is a commander who pulls down his rising subordinate.
Q: Is there any professional, legal or moral impediment that stops a former intelligence official from holding such a senior post?
A: The fact that you are asking me such a question is enough to show that something is fundamentally wrong with the state of our body politic.
Surely, serving as an intelligence officer should be a commendation by definition and not a condemnation.
Intelligence officers are at the core of the social infrastructure that protects our national security.
There’s, therefore, no professional, legal or moral impediment that stops a former intelligence officer like VP Mphoko from holding a senior position in the leadership of the country. Nobody, not even Dabengwa, has established or shown that VP Mphoko committed any atrocity or violated any law as an intelligence officer.
If anything, there are as yet untold accounts that he helped to save lives.
One of the people who know this very well is Dumiso Dabengwa who is widely known as an intelligence supremo.
Elsewhere, George HW Bush, a former director of the CIA, served as the 41st president of the United States.
So please don’t be surprised to find the quislings in our midst who are given to condemning VP Mphoko’s tenure in the intelligence services of our country to be among those who celebrate and see George HW Bush, a former director of the CIA, as their example of good leadership despite his notorious career as an intelligence officer.
Q: It is notable that Dr Dabengwa should call into question the role and status of the intelligence services considering his own background in that field and the fact that for many years as a Government minister he too directly relied on their expertise…
A: It’s a matter of the public record that Dabengwa served as a member of the Joint Operations Command and superintended over the infamous Law and Order Maintenance Act before its repeal.
Nobody has sought to tarnish Dabengwa’s reputation on account of these facts.
It is, therefore, important for Dabengwa to treat others like VP Mphoko who served as intelligence officers in the same way that Dabengwa himself has been treated with respect to LOMA which was crafted by Rhodesians to brutalise the indigenous population.
The idea of automatic demonising of national institutions such as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the police and the CIO is repugnant in the extreme and thus unacceptable.
Concerns must be on a case-by-case basis with reference to specific indiscretions and not blanket condemnation.
It is wrong and primitive to condemn a citizen, like VP Mphoko, simply and only because he worked for the CIO.
I repeat: nobody has claimed they were victims of Cde Mphoko’s service as an intelligence officer. Nobody.
The record is that he served honourably. So what is Dabengwa’s fuss about?
Q: So in light of the above, what does this say about the general understanding of the Unity Accord by some quarters in the political class?
A: Based on this conversation, there’s enough evidence to show that some individuals in the political class with their own personal agendas continue to trip themselves over the Unity Accord.
While this is sad, the salutary fact is that the people of Zimbabwe as a nation have a better and progressive understanding of national unity which is grounded in their collective history and aspirations.
In any event, the letter and spirit of the Unity Accord is now enshrined in our Constitution.
As we celebrate National Unity Day tomorrow, what remains is to constructively and nationally deal with the lingering consequences of the madness that afflicted Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands provinces during the Gukurahundi period between 1983 and 1987.
There’s no need for emotive politics of division and no need for finger pointing.
What is needed are cool heads, with President Mugabe’s guidance that what happened during that period — which continues to be exploited by some self-serving charlatans — was a moment of madness.
There are many reasons to believe that VP Mphoko has the cool head to address the lingering issues in a responsible and effective way beyond the cheap politics that many in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces have had enough of.
Q: It would appear that the sentiments being raised by VP Mphoko’s critics are directly antagonistic to his joint brief as Minister Responsible for National Healing and Reconciliation. There also appears to be a virulent tribalistic bent in the criticisms. How does this impact on his work as both a national VP and a Minister of Government? Is he not starting from what could be construed to be a losing position in executing his brief?
A: Look, critics have their rights which we must and do respect as a constitutional democracy.
But it does indeed seem that there are some who want VP Mphoko to fail before he even starts his specific assignment to foster national healing and reconciliation in the country.
The fact is that this is not a Mphoko issue; it is a Government matter.
President Mugabe is determined to enhance national unity in the country in order to have an enabling environment for turning around the economy to benefit all Zimbabweans.
That’s what Zim-Asset is all about. This is not an option. It is a call to duty which enjoins, not just VP Mphoko, but all of us to act decisively under one centre of power led by President Mugabe. – The Sunday Mail