WHEN the “Ides of March” devoured Kembo Mohadi as he stepped down as country Vice-President (VP) late February last year, many thought the epitaph on his political grave had been inscribed for eternity.
Mohadi had seemingly been a victim of Zanu PF’s fluidity and fractious nature, only for the Matabeleland South political stalwart to cling on to his powerful VP position in Zanu PF.
Since then, he has been enjoying the benefits associated with his past position as country VP, including having a motorcade.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa re-appointed Mohadi to his powerful position in Zanu PF at the party’s elective congress, joining other heavyweights who also kept their positions — VP Constantino Chiwenga and party national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
Party secretary for administration Obert Mpofu also retained his position in the top five of the party.
Mohadi announced his resignation in March 2021 after being caught up in a messy sex scandal involving young married women.
Since then, Mnangagwa has stuck to one VP and in the process doing away with the late former President Robert Mugabe tradition of appointing a former PF Zapu member and someone from Matabeleland as one of his deputies in government in the spirit of the December 1987 Unity Accord. The Unity Accord, that helped end mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands, a period referred to as Gukurahundi, had a silent agreement providing for the appointment of a senior ex-Zapu member as second Zanu PF and country VP.
Mohadi was appointed Zanu PF and country VP in December 2017, succeeding former Ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko.
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Mphoko, who was ousted along with Mugabe following the 2017 coup, had succeeded the late John Nkomo.
Before Nkomo, there was Joseph Msika and Zapu founding president, Joshua Nkomo (both late).
Mugabe was, however, accused of not fully honouring the Unity Accord and sidelining ex-Zapu members in key party and government positions.
In frustration, ex-Zapu members led by the late Dumiso Dabengwa gathered courage to break ranks with the ruling party in 2008, signalling the collapse of the accord,
Mohadi, however, became the third Cabinet member to throw in the towel post-Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence.
First was the late Education minister Edmund Garwe who resigned in December 1996 after admitting that his daughter had leaked an examination paper at her school.
Then former Industry and International Trade minister Nkosana Moyo who ditched Mugabe’s administration in a huff in 2001.
Mohadi’s resignation attracted headlines in Zimbabwe and abroad. A number of his alleged phone recordings had leaked amid reports that he was a victim of a sting operation. Mohadi, had then, vowed to take revenge on political foes who allegedly orchestrated his demise.
He said he wanted time away from public life to deal with his problems outside the “governance chair,” adding that his decision was not “a matter of cowardice” but respect for the office of the President.
After rumours that he was poised to resign, Mohadi claimed that he had been a “victim of voice cloning, information distortion and political sabotage.”
Dismissing the allegations, he claimed that the “digital media, in their hybridity, have been abused by my enemies to blackmail me.”
The resignation put Mnangagwa in the spotlight as comrades, friends and foes watched to see what and how he would handle the tricky situation.
And Mnangagwa, as has become his modus operandi, has remained tight-lipped, with Zanu-PF confirming that Mohadi would remain the party’s 2nd secretary and VP.
The situation left Mnangagwa in an awkward position because, as per tradition, he needed to appoint someone else as State VP.
The Zimbabwean Constitution provides for two VPs.
Mnangagwa has since then kept everyone guessing as he left the post vacant.
This, observers argued, needed closure from the perspective of political stability, electoral politics and commitment to solving national problems such as the yet to be resolved Gukurahundi.
There are, however, arguments that Mnangagwa needs to consider issues of gender, seniority and, to some extent, competence for VP’s role.
And as Mnangagwa announced new politburo members in October, with Mohadi back on the high table, the debate continued to rage over the latter’s role in government and Zanu PF as the 2023 polls beckon.
Sharing their perspectives last week, political analysts said Mnangagwa continues to show his shrewd political nature.
They argued that the political lifeline handed to Mohadi may see him bouncing back in government post elections.
In an interview, academic and political commentator, Alexander Rusero, said Mohadi never left government corridors.
“I don’t think he ever left. It is clear the recording scandal was a hatchet insider job by a certain very senior person in Zanu PF,” Rusero said.
Rusero believes the alleged person could also be from Matabeleland and probably envisaged that Mohadi’s removal would inevitably lead to his rise.
“However, in terms of power calculations Mnangagwa downplayed the sexual escapades of his deputy as a mere storm brewing in a tea cup, which would fizzle with time,” he said.
“This has worked. From the onset it was unheard of that one would be a party VP and not the State VP in Zimbabwe.”
South Africa-based political analyst, Ricky Makonza, said he was certain Mnangagwa would bring back Mohadi after the 2023 elections.
“Since when have morals and ethics been a factor in the appointment of officials?” Makonza asked.
“Those implicated in the Sandura Commission went on to be recycled. It’s a culture in Zimbabwean politics.”
Mukonza said, in another scenario, Mnangagwa could take the opportunity to appoint a female VP to communicate a strong message on how his government is moving towards women empowerment.
“But Mnangagwa has proven to be a shrewd politician. How he removed Kembo (from government) after the scandal and kept him at the Zanu PF headquarters cooled down the political temperatures and now he can bring him back with little effect,” he said.
United Kingdom-based politician and international constitutional lawyer Masimba Mavaza argued that it was not mandatory, but permissible for Mnangagwa to choose two VPs.
“The president will choose his government deputies after elections, but there are no guarantees that Mohadi or Chiwenga will be reappointed,” Mavaza reckoned.
“It is entirely the prerogative of the President. The fact that one is a Zanu PF VP or one is the naughty boy does not make him the country’s Vice-President.
“We have secretaries for finance, commissariat, health, information and several others who have taken the same positions in the government.”
Mavaza argued that Zanu PF was in control of government, adding that the party VP held a stronger position than the one in government.
“It is just a figment of imagination to believe that Mohadi is on his way out. Again, one day is too long in politics. By 2023 things will have changed and it could be a different story.
“Remember Mohadi was not fired; he resigned. So he qualifies to be reappointed. His bedroom escapades and firing below the belt ended up just as allegations and not proven fact.”
There are still some moons to go before Zimbabwe goes to the polls, and as talk over Mohadi’s fate refuses to wane, Zanu PF has to win next year’s elections to bring closure or continue the debate.