Nduduzo Tshuma Senior Political Reporter
ZANU-PF Politburo member Cde Ambrose Mutinhiri, who has thrown his hat into the race for the Vice -Presidency, says reports that he joined the Front for Liberation in Zimbabwe (Frolizi) during the liberation struggle would not dent his chances of landing the coveted post as he was only “guilty by association”.
Cde Mutinhiri, a retired Brigadier-General and former Zipra Chief of Staff, said he was confident that he would land the post when Zanu-PF holds its elective congress in December in what promises to be a tight contest.
He joins Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, considered a front-runner in the race, former Ambassador to South Africa and fellow founding Zipra commander Cde Phelekezela Mphoko, Home Affairs Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi and Zanu-PF politburo member and former PF-Zapu national chairman Cde Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu.
“Yes, I’ve thrown my hat into the ring for the job. The party has not given anyone a go ahead to campaign but naturally you have to tell people about the decision that you’ve made,” said Cde Mutinhiri.
“I’m confident that I will win. I will not talk about others who want the position. I’m my own man and product.”
Cde Mutinhiri said there was a need to do away with the notion that only leaders from Matabeleland should contest the second vice-presidency.
“It’s a notion that should be dismissed as it depicts Zapu as if it was a regional party. It was a national party. Reducing big names like Dr Joshua Nkomo to tribal leaders is the worst insult. We must look at all PF-Zapu cadres regardless of the region they come from,” he said.
On joining Frolizi, Cde Mutinhiri, who was one of the first seven commanders of the Military Planning Committee of PF-Zapu formed in 1965, said he was “guilty by association” as he was close to James Chikerema and George Nyandoro.
The members, according to an article by fellow founding commander Cde Phelekezela Mphoko who was chief of logistics at the time, included commander Akim Ndlovu, chief of staff Robson Manyika, Chief of Transport Abraham Nkiwane, Cdes Mutinhiri, Gordon Bushe and Walter Mbambo .
Cde Mphoko, in an article published by Chronicle in 2012, said Cde Mutinhiri rejoined PF-Zapu from Frolizi between 1973 and 1974 and only became Zipra chief of staff long after the collapse of the Zimbabwe’s People’s Army in 1977.
Media reports this week indicated that Cde Mutinhiri’s history with Frolizi could impact negatively on his campaign.
But he told Chronicle: “It’s not an issue because it’s not true. I never joined Frolizi. The reports say Chikerema was the leader of Frolizi yet in actual fact it was led by Shelton Siwela. I’m guilty by association because I was close to Chikerema and Nyandoro”.
Cde Mphoko wrote that Cde Mutinhiri lost his entire military rank and PF-Zapu membership when he went to help form Frolizi in 1972 and became its chief of staff.
“When Zipra was formed in 1972, Cde Mutinhiri was not there, he had already left Zapu to form Frolizi,” he wrote.
Cde Mphoko wrote that the first Zipra command structure comprised chief of staff Rogers Mangena, CS1 Political Commissar Lookout Masuku, CS2 Chief of Military Intelligence Tapson Nkomane, CS3 Chief of Operations Charles Ngwenya, CS4 Chief of logistics and supplies Phelekezela Mphoko, CS5 Chief of Personnel and Training Cephas Cele.
In his article, Cde Mphoko said Cde Mutinhiri along with other senior PF-Zapu officials who had left were later readmitted into PF-Zapu and Zipra as ordinary soldiers.
“Cde Mutinhiri then became one of the five senior commanders of Zipra that formed Zipa in Mozambique in 1975 as Chief of Personnel and training with other Zipra commanders like Rogers Mangena as political commissar, Charles Ngwenya deputy to the late Solomon Mujuru, Tapson Nkomane Chief of Military Intelligence and I as Chief of Logistics and Supplies,” wrote Cde Mphoko.
“After Zipra operations in Mozambique, Cde Mutinhiri was then formalised as a member of Zipra and was appointed chief of staff.”