HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday tore into acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, describing his appointment as VP and that of Phelekezela Mphoko as a “façade reform” which is incapable of saving the country from the prevailing political and economic turmoil.
“There have been changes in the leadership of both Zanu PF and the government,” Tsvangirai said.
“It is simply a cosmetic change without any substantial impact on the direction of the country.
“Attempts have been made by Mnangagwa, the acting president and some of his acolytes to brand themselves as reformists when in fact they are unrepentant hardliners…
“In the case of the acting president, he has a tainted record that Zimbabwe will never forget both in terms of his role in the Gukurahundi repression and in the presidential run-off in 2008 and the electoral theft in 2013.”
Mnangagwa served as Zimbabwe’s State Security minister in the 1980s, during Mugabe’s crackdown on an uprising in the country’s Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
The so-called “Gukurahundi massacres”, carried out by a crack military unit trained by North Korean advisors, resulted in the killings of 20 000 people, according to an estimate by the rights group Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. Other estimates run as high as 80 000 dead.
A lawyer by profession, Mnangagwa has a reputation as a hardliner and was Mugabe’s chief election agent in the 2008 and 2013 elections, both of which were tainted by violence and accusations of ballot fraud. Mnangagwa’s combative defence of Mugabe’s nationalism and socialism made him a favoured protégé.
Mugabe also named former Zipra military commander and seasoned diplomat Phelekezela Mphoko as second vice president of the ruling party and of the State. A career diplomat, the little-known Mphoko’s last posting was in neighbouring South Africa.
Tsvangirai dismissed the appointments as “token changes in the cockpit” saying they are inept of achieving any reform, be it constitutional or economic.
“The newly-appointed vice presidents have their work clearly cut out for them,” he said.
“But predictably, they cannot extricate themselves from Mugabe’s ruinous and disastrous legacy.
“They are entrapped in the same policy failure that has characterised Zanu PF governance culture in the past 35 years. These are leaders who were not elected but appointed to their positions. They have no mandate from the people and will simply do Mugabe’s bidding.”