The unfairness of VP Mphoko critics

The unfairness of VP Mphoko critics VP Mphoko
VP Mphoko

VP Mphoko

Kennedy Mavhumashava Correspondent
VICE President Phelekezela Mphoko has been a target of some political vitriol over the past month following his speech at the First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe’s rally at Kanyemba High School in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central.

Introducing her to the crowd on February 12, Mphoko said: “There’s nowhere in our Constitution where it’s written that this country was liberated by a Karanga, a Ndau, a Zezuru or a Ndebele.

“What we hear now that President Mugabe is a Zezuru and if he steps down a Karanga should take over isn’t what we fought for. That’s a Rhodesian mindset. Don’t lose sleep over statements by some excitable people because there’s nothing like that.

“We’ve party ideology and if you wander off, led by your ambition, you’ll set off landmines. Don’t say you weren’t warned. So, let’s not fool ourselves thinking that the position of President is up for grabs by everyone.

“Number two, being greedy and too ambitious makes you a bad subordinate. That’s the first sin. You can’t separate those two. Satan had a beautiful voice in the Bible, but he wasn’t content with his position. He could hit all the musical notes but he wasn’t satisfied, he wanted to be God. He tripped.”

What some of us see as an honest, constructive admonition of tribalism has been unfortunately spun in some circles to mean that VP Mphoko said people of Karanga extraction cannot be President.

Opportunists, including many in the opposition and so-called civil society, have responded on social networks and the Press hurling personal and defamatory attacks at him. They are not only demanding that Mphoko apologise for “insulting the Karanga people”, but that he must also resign.

Dzikamai Mavhaire, until 2014 a Zanu-PF Politburo member, now a key figure in Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First, told an online publication: “Mphoko’s views are full of hatred. All people have the right to choose their own leaders despite tribal backgrounds. We don’t tolerate such kind of talk.”

Wrote one Maynard Manyowa in a daily newspaper: “His (Mphoko’s) remarks about the Karanga were improper and dangerous. It’s one thing to play factional games and divide your own party. It’s another to divide a volatile society against sensitive, fractured and fragile tribal differences. That is not politics or factionalism; it is hate speech and incite- ment.”

Others have alleged that what they say the VP said is the kind of talk that ignited civil unrest in some African countries. This thinking is mischievous and these minds must be told that their disproportionate and dishonest response to Mphoko’s remarks is, in actual fact, the sort that has potential to divide the people and cause unrest.

It is clear that the politicians and other people writing with their true identities hidden to castigate Mphoko over his Kanyemba address actually know and understand what he said, but are insidiously re-working it for possible political advantage.

That most of the people castigating him, especially those doing so in writing, are conveniently not bothering to directly quote his supposedly incendiary remarks confirms that the critics know that if they did, they will have no basis to justify their “anger”, for Mphoko did not say that the Karanga have no chance of governing this country. At no time did he say that.

They have chosen to concentrate on a non-existent insult, overlooking some very important points the VP made that can be useful to party and national unity.

Although he didn’t directly say it at the rally, the VP suggested that he, and no doubt all well-meaning cadres in the party and certainly ordinary Zimbabweans, want meritocracy to be the only factor that guarantees the presidency, not tribes, regions, gender, economic status or any others that divide the people. Zimbabweans want a president from any tribal background, one who is not only totally Zimbabwean in character, but also demonstrates, beforehand, his or her ability to run this country. That person can indeed be Karanga. He or she can also be Zezuru, Ndebele, Tonga, Ndau, Xhosa, Kalanga and so on.

It would be political suicidal for anyone to think they can win the presidency of this country on the basis of some parochial identity only, not ability and popularity. You can’t go into a national election expecting to win on the basis of votes gained from your own tribe in a country that has 5,8 million registered voters spread across 10 provinces.

The demographic make-up of our country does not allow that to happen. That is good to some of us because it builds a nation and ensures that tribal bigots and regionalists cannot win a national election. It motivates genuine politicians to work for a national outlook. At the same time, it asserts the futility of regionalism or tribalism. You have to be a person of national standing who appeals to all.

Our politicians need to aspire to be like President Robert Mugabe, the late VP Joshua Nkomo and many other founders of this nation who are and were true nationalists. President Mugabe gets votes from anywhere across the country and Nkomo was at home addressing a campaign rally in Kezi, his home area, as in Binga, Makonde, Gutu, Chimanimani or Zaka. If tribe was a factor in national politics, these two luminaries would not have achieved the political success they enjoyed and continue to enjoy.

The Minister of State in VP Mphoko’s office, Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, must be congratulated for tackling the distortions that have been used to get at Mphoko, pointing out that her boss was actually speaking against tribalism, not fomenting it.


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“President Mugabe,” she said, “is on record as saying that we’re one country and therefore cannot divide ourselves along tribal lines and in the same spirit VP Mphoko was merely repeating a message of unity that has long been preached by the President himself.

“It was a unifying message from VP Mphoko that we should look at each other as members of one family. His message is not directed not only at the Presidency but to everyone at all levels of the party. He’s saying people should not believe that they deserve positions because they are from certain parts of the country.”

VP Mphoko correctly reminded us that the liberation struggle was not fought by tribes, but by sons and daughters of the soil who aspired for a free Zimbabwe where they would live harmoniously with no regard to regional or tribal background. This country is founded on the liberation struggle and that foundation must necessarily define the way leaders are elected and how it is governed. Thus, as the VP said, isms have no place in Zimbabwe.

Another important point that he made at Kanyemba is on the dangers of unbridled ambition. Yes, everyone aspires for greater influence in their lives, but in doing so, one must always be aware of the need to obey due process.

There is therefore no reason for Mavhaire and company to seek to make political capital out of this, because politics that is based on lies is often dangerous. It is the kind of politics that creates war and civil unrest.

VP Mphoko did not say what is being alleged he did. He did not say a Karanga cannot be president of this country. A person of his standing and history cannot say that. He knows that anyone – Karanga, Zezuru, Ndebele, Venda, Tonga, Shangaan, Ndau or Xhosa – can be elected president of this country if they are popular enough. What he said is that it is wrong to seek to claim political positions simply because of one’s tribe – tribal entitlement. The record is there to prove it.

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