VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko was told to “shut up” about his struggle role by Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa and he seems to have just done that, refusing to field further questions about his liberation war credentials.
Mphoko on Sunday said people like Dabengwa were wasting their time by breaking away from Zanu PF, but this triggered a strong backlash from the Zapu leader who insinuated that the newly-appointed Vice-President had sold Zipra out during the struggle.
Yesterday, Mphoko chose not to respond to Dabengwa’s statements, switching his phone off when pressed further to comment.
“So that is what Dabengwa said, so what do you want from me?” he said.
But pressed further to comment that he was ditched by Zipra when he chose to remain in Mozambique, Mphoko further declined to comment.
“I am not interested in commenting,” he said before switching off his mobile phone.
Mphoko recently claimed to have been a commander of a joint operations force of Zipra and South Africa’s African National Congress’s Umkhonto Wesizwe, but Dabengwa accused the Vice-President of embellishing his role.
Dabengwa’s statements about Mphoko were yesterday buttressed by another former Zipra cadre who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he regarded Mphoko as his senior, but disputed that he ever was a commander.
“I know that Mphoko worked with Dabengwa as a special force before Zipra was formed,” the former freedom fighter said.
“When Zipa was set up and some irreconcilable differences emerged between Zanla and Zipra, Zipra commander Nikita Mangena pulled out his troops and returned to Zambia, but Mphoko remained in Mozambique in 1976. One would say he deserted.”
Following his appointment as Vice-President, there had been several questions on who he was as many did not know him.
In response, Mphoko gave his account of history, but Dabengwa said the narrative was exaggerated.
Despite being a senior military person during the struggle, Mphoko is hardly known in the country.
He is reported to have joined the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) after independence, although he was later to be arrested in 1985 at the height of Gukurahundi.
Since coming into the limelight this year with his declaration that he wanted to be Vice-President, Mphoko has lurched from one controversy to another.
At one time, it was claimed he did not have a Zanu PF membership card, but he shot back, saying he was a member of the party’s central committee.
The Vice-President becomes the second high-ranking Zanu PF official to have his war credentials questioned.
Recently, the party’s secretary for finance Obert Mpofu claimed to be a commando and one of the best trained military cadres, but his former colleagues in Zipra maintain that despite being trained, he did not go to the war front and instead went to further his education in India.