THE appointment of Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko as vice presidents could see China and Russia strengthen their grip on Zimbabwe given the two VPs’ political and military links to these countries, political analysts have said.
Mnangagwa, a Chinese-trained liberation war veteran, replaced deposed Joice Mujuru who was booted out for allegedly plotting to illegally depose President Robert Mugabe.
Mphoko, a career diplomat from the Zapu wing of the liberation struggle, received his military training in Russia and was once Harare’s envoy to Moscow, replaced the late John Nkomo.
China has, over the years, increased its economic involvement in Zimbabwe after Mugabe fell out with the West and decided to look east for support.
The veteran leader travelled to Beijing in August where he claimed to have been guaranteed financial support for massive infrastructure development projects in the country.
He returned home to the huge boost of hosting a high profile visit by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in a development that saw Harare and Moscow seal a deal for the establishment of a new US$3 billion platinum mine.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said considering the historical relationships the two vice presidents have with China and Russia, there could be a boost in economic ties between Harare and the two major powers.
“History tells you that Mnangagwa is a Chinese trained military guy and he has strong links with that country,” he said.
“From that point, we see increased trade between the two states who would want to support their military student.
“For Mphoko, we hear that he is a Russian-trained person hence likewise, we expect him to lure more trade from that side.
“The Chinese will definitely flood the Zimbabwe market and will shall see more deals being penned between the two states in recognition of the historical relationship.”
Masunungure said although Mnangagwa is seen as a hardliner, he was unlikely to be another Mugabe who regularly engages in angry rants at the West.
The first vice president’s approach to national issues would likely be more pragmatic than emotional.
“When you look at the appointments of the two, one thing is common, it a second generation in Zanu PF, a generation that has for long been in the military establishment of the country and could be up to bring order and stability,” he said.
However, another political commentator, Ernest Mudzengi said it was too early to expect anything from the two VPs since Mugabe has already “indicating that it is him who will be directing and allocating them duties”.
“We have nothing much on Mphoko, but for Mnangagwa, it is just assumption that he is a favourite of the Chinese, but you have to understand that it is Mugabe who will be in charge and, as he said, it is him who will be giving them what to do,” he said.
“Basically, they will not be allowed to think, and if they try to be great thinkers, they will find themselves in the same state like Mujuru who is accused of trying to work with other states such as America and Britain.”