THE two recent road accidents involving Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko have raised a stink with political analysts yesterday saying the incidents appeared stage-managed to court public sympathy and portray the two politicians as victims of Zanu PF internal fights.
Mphoko escaped unhurt on Saturday after he was involved in an accident while using his official vehicle a day after being sworn in, two months after Mnangagwa also survived a similar car crash while driving alone in Harare at night.
According to the police, a truck carrying wedding material suddenly stopped in front of Mphoko’s motorcade on Saturday, resulting in the accident.
In October, a staff bus belonging to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals reportedly abruptly turned and smashed into Mnangagwa’s official Mercedes-Benz.
At the time, Mnangagwa and dismissed Vice-President Joice Mujuru were reportedly jostling to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Prior to his appointment last Friday, Mphoko was also involved in vicious fights with several ex-Zapu cadres, among them Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and former party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo who were all eyeing the Vice-Presidency.
Mnangagwa last week reportedly survived another suspected assassination attempt after his new office was allegedly fumigated with a poisonous substance which has left his three aides hospitalised after inhaling it.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said no suspects had been arrested in connection with the incident.
“Police forensic unit is still doing tests on the substance to identify exactly what it is,” Charamba said.
“To date, no suspects have been arrested or questioned in relation to the poisoning, but investigators are continuing to do a thorough investigation in the matter.”
However, China-based Zimbabwean researcher and scholar of African politics Obert Hodzi said the accidents appeared stage-managed.
“There is a nexus between information and political power in Zimbabwe. The government, or let me say Zanu PF, dispenses information for political advantage. For that reason, people are often suspicious of any claims made by State institutions as well as government officials,” he said.
Hodzi said there was lack of trust between the public and the State, saying such cases were reported in the media and never followed up.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said Mugabe could have mistakenly let it slip that these “mishaps” were planned when he concluded that Mnangagwa escaped an assassination attempt after suspected assailants sprayed cyanide in his office to suffocate him.
“The general public suspicion is that these so-called accidents may be stage-managed and are justified because everything is politicised,” Mavhinga said.
“Mugabe jumped to allege an assassination attempt on Mnangagwa by poison in the absence of thorough investigations, which raises suspicion that these things are being cooked up. It is highly unlikely that there are people out to murder these politicians who are in the twilight of their years.”
Kent University law professor Alex Magaisa, writing on his blog, expressed worry that history had shown that such incidents had brought dangerous consequences in Zimbabwe and left many dead or nursing wounds.
“Naturally a debate has ensued over these incidents,” he said.
“What is worrying, of course, is that these events are not without precedent in our political landscape and when they have happened before, they have brought dangerous consequences, the wounds of which, to date, have not healed.”
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa described Mphoko as “a sell-out and a cheat”, who hides information that he was appointed a State security agent after Independence in 1980.
Dabengwa in a statement chronicled how Mphoko allegedly ditched Zipra at the height of the struggle and later allegedly embellished his role during the armed struggle, so as to enhance his credentials.
“In the mid-1970s when the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) was set up in Mozambique to bring together Zipra and Zanla forces, the Zapu contingent was led by Alfred Nikita Mangena, with Mphoko still in charge of logistics,” Dabengwa.
“When irreconcilable differences cropped up among commanders in that force, Nikita pulled back the Zipra contingent to Zambia, but Mphoko stayed back and indicated he would follow at a later date.
“That did not happen much to the anger of Nikita and the rest of the Zipra command, at this point Mphoko started acting as Zapu representative in Mozambique.
“As far as Zipra commanders are concerned, Mphoko joined Zanu when he reneged from joining his contingent when they left Zipa to return to Zambia.”
Dabengwa seemed to suggest that Mphoko was not one of the most senior ex-Zipra commanders.
“On attainment of independence in 1980, Mphoko was one of the few Zapu cadres to be inducted into the CIO,” he said.
“It may be significant that from the CIO, Mphoko was sent out to the Zimbabwe Embassy in Austria.
“For some reason, he does not mention this attachment as the beginning of his diplomatic career.
“This precedes his appointment to Russia, Botswana and finally South Africa which are quite publicised.”