Zimbabwe National War Veterans’ Association chairman Jabulani Sibanda on Sunday condemned attacks on Bulawayo provincial chairman Japhet Phuthi by former Ambassador to South Africa Phekelezela Mphoko over the Zanu-PF Vice-Presidency race.War veterans in Bulawayo held a crisis meeting two weeks ago and afterwards Phuthi said they backed Zanu-PF national chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo for the vice-presidency and warned veterans not to be involved in underground campaigns.
Phuthi warned what he termed “renegades”, who were secretly and clandestinely campaigning for the post, saying they were in violation of party principles.
Mphoko, also eyeing the vice-presidency, last Monday hit back at Phuthi saying people should desist from claiming they were Zipra cadres and castigating their seniors.
He said he felt sorry for Phuthi as it seemed he was holding his position by default and was a semi-trained military man who did not understand military structures. Mphoko said Phuthi claimed to be Zipra and had become more Zipra than them who actually formed it questioning his (Phuthi)’s authority to warn war veterans.
Sibanda told Chronicle Sunday that the former Zipra commander should have found a better way of addressing the matter, considering his seniority and the post he was eyeing.
“I have not spoken to either Mphoko or Phuthi, but generally I do not like to comment on such an issue because to me it’s all trash,” said Sibanda.
He said Cde Phuthi was not expressing his personal views on the matter, but was speaking on behalf of an organisation he leads hence he could not understand why Mphoko attacked the person of the Bulawayo provincial war veterans chairperson.
“That was a position from the people and not a position from Phuthi. Phuthi has been a leader for many years and elected by the people. He was not appointed like government officials. When he spoke, he did so on behalf of his constituency.
“I think for a leader like Mphoko and the position that he wants, he could have handled that matter better than he did. He should have called Phuthi to the side and raised whatever issues he had,” said Sibanda.
He added that Mphoko had a right to campaign for the post. “ Mphoko has a right to campaign for the post and do so publicly. He should not be bothered by those who campaign secretly and clandestinely.
“If he is campaigning openly, he should not be worried, and besides, as far as I understand, Phuthi did not mention anyone by name.”
Phuthi last week said attacks on him were a result of Mphoko getting ill advice from what he called “desertees of the war veterans association.”
“Those things are not coming from Mphoko. We know his advisors. Some of them we know their history. All that has been said is out of ill advice by a desertee of the war veterans association,” said Phuthi without mentioning names.
“He went on to say I was holding my position by default. I was elected by people. Through ill advice he was told that I am a default chairman. I know who his advisor is.
“If we were to talk about his (advisor) history, he deserted and became a civilian in Zambia. Bring him here and we will tell him that during the Chikerema crisis he deserted the war.”
While Khaya Moyo is the frontrunner in the race for the VP post left vacant following the death of John Nkomo last year, Mphoko has indicated interest.
Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi has said he is ready to take up the position if elected while former Zipra chief of staff Ambrose Mutinhiri said he was still consulting on whether or not to contest.