MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, yesterday drew daggers with Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, accusing him of being a “drunkard high on some drugs” after the latter claimed the former Premier was a key actor during the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s and had shot at the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s car in an assassination attempt.
By VENERANDA LANGA/XOLISANI NCUBE
Mphoko stirred a hornet’s nest on Saturday when he told journalists in Bulawayo that Tsvangirai was part of a Zanu PF hit squad tasked with assassinating Nkomo in Masvingo during the emotive Gukurahundi era.
The Vice-President added that Tsvangirai was involved in the bombing of a police station in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North province.
But, Tsvangirai hit back, accusing Mphoko of “making a sick joke out of a national tragedy”, still fresh on victims’ minds nearly three decades on.
“Here was a whole Vice-President, with neither shame nor compunction, grossly maligning and besmirching an innocent citizen and making a sick joke out of a national tragedy,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka said in a statement yesterday.
“He may indulge in anything he fancies, but he must never make himself a national spectacle, humiliating both [the] party and government by smearing an innocent citizen with blood in a desperate bid to make a murderer out of them.”
He said Mphoko could have done well with taking advice from his colleagues — ostensibly Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — who had lost their parents during the massacres.
“He could have done better if he had sought the advice of some of his colleagues in the same [Zanu PF] faction, who lost their parents during the senseless Gukurahundi period,” Tamborinyoka continued.
“At least they could have sat him down to impress upon him that this was no laughing matter; that Gukurahundi was too grave a matter to clown about.”
An estimated 20 000 civilians were killed when President Robert Mugabe deployed the North Korean-trained Five Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980s.
Mugabe has not apologised for the mass killings, only describing them as a “moment of madness”.
The MDC-T leader also threatened to sue Mphoko over the remarks.
“Next time, Mphoko’s minders must assist him to resist the temptation to parade himself in front of television cameras,” Tamborinyoka said.
“He surely owes the nation an elaborate substantiation of his fanciful allegations that do not befit the high office he holds. He will surely have his day in court.
In 2014, Mphoko, who served as a diplomat and State security agent before his appointment as Vice-President, claimed that the Gukurahundi massacres were a Western conspiracy and exonerated Mugabe from the killings.
Attempts to seek a clarification from the VP proved fruitless as his mobile phone was continuously busy.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF politburo member, Moyo, who lost his father during the massacres, yesterday challenged Mphoko to reveal more details on the issue.
“I do subscribe to the doctrine that he who alleges has the burden to prove his or her allegation! I think this is a matter that does not require kneejerk or ideological reactions,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The disclosure should be empirically tested to verify it.”