Nduduzo Tshuma Senior Political Reporter—
VICE President Cde Phelekezela Mphoko was yesterday described as a humble man and disciplined soldier from the days of the liberation war. President Robert Mugabe yesterday appointed the 74-year-old former diplomat and Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa as his two deputies. Cde Mphoko replaces the late Vice President John Nkomo, who died in January last year. One of the two Vice President posts is reserved for the former PF-Zapu which signed a unity pact with ZANU in 1987.
Zanu-PF central committee member Cde Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu yesterday said Cde Mphoko, who at his appointment was the Choppies Zimbabwe chairman, was approachable and always willing to assist others.
“A person is known by their humanity, which is learnt right from the homes where they’re raised. Since the days of the liberation war, he had respect for elders. He belonged to that group of educated ones but always remained humble and respectful,” said Cde Ndlovu.
“When I got to Zambia, he was already overseas but from what I heard from his peers, they were so proud and spoke highly of him. He commanded a lot of respect. He will be accepted well by his peers who won’t have any difficulties approaching him.”
Cde Ndlovu expressed hope that Cde Mphoko would continue assisting people following his appointment as VP.
“You don’t go to school for such a position, the character that you have will be the one that determines whether you’re a good leader. The President has honoured him with this position and I’m confident that he’ll do his job to the best of his ability.”
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Cde Mphoko was a personal friend, but could not be drawn into revealing much about the Vice President elect’s character.
Cde Mohadi said Cde Mphoko was one of the commanders of the liberation war fighting force, Zipra, in charge of logistics.
“I don’t want to talk much, just in case he might not like what I would say, but he’s my friend. He calls me Dugish, and I call him Report (their less-known middle names),” said Cde Mohadi.
Zanu-PF central committee member Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said Cde Mphoko served his country with honour and distinction in every role he has been deployed.
“He became a Zapu representative in Mozambique before Independence and went in the trenches where he worked with (South African President) Jacob Zuma. He was a committed and consistent liberation war fighter until we won our Independence,” said Ndlovu.
“Cde Mphoko has been a career diplomat since Independence and his contribution had been to stand for the country in trials and tribulations. He then came and joined the party in Bulawayo and succeeded to get into the central committee and then his appointment today.
“We’ve quite a trusted, hardworking person and we do hope and pray for him that he leads and looks at the needs of the people and looks at the development of the nation and also remember where he comes from.”
Ndlovu said they would support Cde Mphoko in making sure that the people’s aspirations are met.
Cde Mphoko was born on June 11, 1940, at Gwizane, in Bubi District of Matabeleland North.
He is married to Luaurinda, a Mozambican national, and they have three children, daughters Sikhumbuzo, Siduduzo and son, Siqokoqela. He has three grand children.
Among the schools he attended were David Livingstone Memorial School in Ntabazinduna and Mzilikazi High School in Bulawayo. Between 1959-60, he enrolled at the Tsholotsho Agricultural Breeding and Experimental School where he did Cropping and Animal Husbandry.
Between 1996 and 1999, VP-elect Mphoko did advanced courses in semen collection, artificial insemination and embryo transfer at the Institute of Genetics, Austria.
In 2003, he studied Agricultural Farming Finance at the University of Natural Science in the Free State, South Africa.
VP-elect Mphoko was between 1962-3 employed by Dunlop Rhodesia Ltd and was workers representative in the Molding section.
Cde Mphoko was arrested in 1963 for political violence after lashing out at a Rhodesian police officer who had set his dog on him and fellow youths. He was sentenced to three years in jail and sent to Khami Prison.
He appealed against the sentence, and was granted bail awaiting a retrial. In the same year, he was a delegate at the Cold Comfort Farm People’s Caretaker Council Congress.
The Congress created a special Affairs Department and decided on an external wing of ZAPU that would plan and direct the armed struggle.
Under the Special Affairs programme, Cde Mphoko along with Albert Nxele, Walter Mbambo and Sam Dumaza Mpofu, were selected by Zapu leader Cde Joshua Nkomo to go for military training.
On April 4, 1964, while awaiting a retrial, Cde Mphoko left Zimbabwe as part of the group of six and received military training in the Soviet Union between May 1964 and February 1965.
In March 1965, he created the first military command structure, the Military Planning Committee to plan and direct the armed struggle.
He was one of the first seven commanders who were commissioned by the revolution and by the political leadership to recruit, train, and command Zimbabweans into a revolution for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
In 1967, he became a member of the Joint Military Command in charge of Logistics and Supply in the ANC/ZAPU Alliance. He commanded the Joint Military rehearsals for the Wankie operations at Dan Nang base, Luthuli Camp, which included South African freedom fighters Joe Modise and Chris Hani who was the Commander of the Detachment and others.
In 1967 and 1968, he operated in Sipolilo(now Guruve) together with Modise, Abraham Nkiwane, Dumiso Dabengwa and others.
In 1976, he was a delegate at the formation of the Patriotic Front, in Maputo, Mozambique, with JZ Moyo, George Silundika and Joseph Msika.
In 1977, Cde Mphoko attended the OAU Adhoc Committee of Foreign Ministers in Luanda Angola with Cdes Joseph Msika, and George Silundika.In 1979, he attended the Lancaster House Peace Talks as a military delegate.
VP Mphoko was in 1980 appointed as a Special Envoy for Dr. Joshua Nkomo, to President Samora Machel of Mozambique, King Sobhuza II of Swaziland, Chief Leabuwa Jonathan of Lesotho, President Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Eric Honneker of the German Democratic Republic.He served in the sub-committee that designed the National Flag of the new Republic of Zimbabwe.
In 1981, Cde Mphoko worked in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare as Deputy Director for Demobilisation. In 1987, he was transferred to the diplomatic service and, with junior stints in Mozambique as Liaison Officer and in 1996 appointed Liaison Officer to Austria, also covering the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organisation.
In 2002, he was appointed Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Botswana, before becoming Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation. In 2010, he was appointed as Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa.