VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko was told to “shut up” about his role in the struggle 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 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 for comment.
“So that is what Dabengwa said, so what do you want from me?” he said.
But pressed further to comment that he ditched 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 ANC’s Umkhonto Wesizwe (South Africa), but Dabengwa accused the vice-president of embellishing his role.
Dabengwa’s statements about Mphoko were yesterday buttressed by another former Zipra cadré, 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 difference emerged between Zanla and Zipra, 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 after independence, although he was arrested in 1985 at the height of Gukurahundi genocide.
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 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 war credentials questioned.
Recently Obert Mpofu claimed to be a commando and one of the best trained military cadrés, but his former colleagues in Zipra maintained that despite being trained, he did not go to the war front and instead went to further his education in India
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