RETIRED Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri, who has been touted as a possible contender for the vice presidency has broken his silence and confirmed to the Financial Gazette that he qualifies for the position. Mutinhiri, who is current Member of Parliament for Marondera West and previously served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Yugoslavia, was a founder member of the military wing of ZAPU.
As a senior member of ZAPU he also served as ZIPRA chief of staff at some point. Such a decorated history, among other accolades, he has claimed, renders him one of the most senior surviving members of former ZAPU cadres. “It’s true I have seniority but I have not said anything yet,” Mutinhiri told the Financial Gazette. “I am still consulting regarding the vice presidency position.”
Mutinhiri’s claims as the most senior person from former ZAPU members have been refuted by some of his colleagues. In an article a few years ago Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa and a senior member in the then ZAPU hierarchy Phelekezela Mphoko challenged the seniority claims saying the brigadier general lost his entire position in the military rank and his membership to ZAPU when he left the party to be a founder member of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe, otherwise known as Frolizi in 1972.
Frolizi was a militant nationalist organisation that fought against the government of Rhodesia from its founding in October 1971 until it merged into the African National Congress in December 1974. Dissatisfied members of the ZAPU and ZANU formed Frolizi which had James Chikerema as leader. However, Mutinhiri told the Financial Gazette that he had seniority and that as soon as he concludes his consultation he would make known his decision.
Asked whom he was consulting, Mutinhiri said, “I am a member of a political party; I have a family; I have a history — I have to take all of that into account.” Mutinhiri, who once served as minister of youth development and employment creation, has a long association with the race for the vice presidency.
When Joseph Msika died in August 2009, he was among those tipped to succeed the “smoking gun”, as the late VP was affectionately known, but lost out to John Nkomo (now late). Following Nkomo’s death in January last year, the race to succeed him now resembles a dog’s breakfast. ZANU-PF national chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, has been widely touted as the frontrunner for the position, but it appears he will get a run for his money as competition looms on the horizon.
Mutinhiri is not the only one whose name has been bandied around as a possible contender for the VP post. Party deputy national spokesman Cain Mathema, Mphoko and Politburo member Cephas Msipa have also been named as potential candidates for the position. According to the ZANU-PF constitution, a candidate for the post must garner nomination from at least seven of the country’s 10 provinces.
The 1987 Unity Accord, which brought former revolutionary parties ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU together into a single party under the ZANU-PF banner, states that the most senior person in former PF-ZAPU ascends to the position or competes for the position with other former senior members.
Mathema was non-committal when contacted by the Financial Gazette recently. “I have no comment, I have no comment,” he hastily retorted before abruptly hanging up. Msipa said: “I have not expressed my interest to anyone. I do not know who told you that.” Transport Minister Obert Mpofu, who also contested for the post in 2009, is reported to be interested while Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi became the latest entry into the race when he declared recently that he was ready to take over the vice presidency. Former deputy president of the Senate, Naison Ndlovu, who had been named as possible contender for the position opted out of the race.