Retired brigadier-general Ambrose Mutinhiri has thrown his hat into the ring for the position of Second Vice President of the Republic, ending months of speculation as to whether or not he would formally join in the race for the hotly contested post. The former ZIPRA chief of staff, who had been long touted as a possible contender for the Vice Presidency on the basis of his ZAPU seniority told the Financial Gazette that he was joining the race to land the third upper most position in the presidium.
Mutinhiri, who is the current Member of Parliament for Marondera West, is a founder member of the military wing of ZAPU and served as second in command in ZIPRA after lieutenant general Lookout Masuku. Such a decorated history, among other accolades, he has claimed, renders him one of the most senior surviving members of former ZAPU cadres. The retired brigadier has also previously served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Yugoslavia.
In the past, the legislator has refrained from publicly declaring for sure whether or not he would run in the vice presidency race, saying he was consulting with party and family members, among others, on the issue. He told the Financial Gazette that he was done with the consultations and was throwing his hat into the ring. “I am confident I will win,” Mutinhiri said. “I know I have got what it takes to land the position.”
Asked whom he had needed to consult in making his decision to run for the VP post, Mutinhiri previously told the Financial Gazette that, “I am a member of a political party; I have a family; I have a history — I have to take all of that into account.” His claims as the most senior person from former ZAPU members have, however, been refuted by some of his colleagues.
In an article a few years ago, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa and a senior member in the then ZAPU hierarchy Phelekezela Mphoko challenged the seniority claims saying the brigadier general lost his entire position in the military rank and his membership to ZAPU when he left the party to be a founder member of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe, otherwise known as Frolizi in 1972.
Frolizi was a militant nationalist organisation that fought against the government of Rhodesia from its founding in October 1971 until it merged into the African National Congress in December 1974. Dissatisfied members of the ZAPU and ZANU formed Frolizi which had James Chikerema as leader. Mutinhiri, who once served as minister of youth development and employment creation, has a long association with the race for the vice presidency.
When Joseph Msika died in August 2009, he was among those tipped to succeed the “smoking gun”, as the late VP was affectionately known, but lost out to John Nkomo (now late). Following Nkomo’s death in January last year, the race to succeed him now resembles a dog’s breakfast. ZANU-PF national chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, has been widely touted as the frontrunner for the position, but it appears he will get a run for his money as competition looms on the horizon.
Mutinhiri joins two other contenders for the VP post namely Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Mphoko. According to the ZANU-PF constitution, a candidate for the post must garner nomination from at least seven of the country’s 10 provinces. The 1987 Unity Accord, which brought former revolutionary parties ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU together into a single party under the ZANU-PF banner, states that the most senior person in former PF-ZAPU ascends to the position or competes for the position with other former senior members.
With reports that Khaya-Moyo, as party chairman has a platform to canvass party members countrywide, ahead of other contenders to the position, this might create an unfair advantage against other contenders.