One of the two surviving founder members of Zipra, Ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko yesterday became the first Zanu-PF cadre to openly declare unconditional interest in landing the vacant post of second Vice-President.
Former Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa, Cde Mphoko opened up yesterday, after months of ambivalence. He was among the 15 nationalists who formed Zipra and the other surviving pioneer is Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri.
Ambassador Mphoko said he qualified to serve his party and country as Vice-President and also chastised some war veterans whom he accused of lacking respect for their war-time commanders.
"Anyone can campaign for the position once the party sanctions it. You can’t deny someone to campaign. I will campaign for it when the time comes. Everyone gets into a position after campaigning," he said.
He also defended some of the fellow contenders saying they had war credentials.
"Out of the 15 freedom fighters that formed Zipra only me and Brigadier General Mutinhiri survive. We trained Thusi (Cde Kembo Mohadi) and he had an officer rank. Every military man knows once you are a general you are always a general," he said.
He said he was ready to start campaigning.
"I qualify and I have the credentials. When the time comes I will throw in my hat and start campaigning," he said.
He attacked Bulawayo war veterans’ leader Cde Japhet Phuthi who recently labelled senior party officials vying for the post as renegades who are against the party principles.
"The VP post is vacant. If anyone had been designated, the President would have made him take up the position in an acting capacity.
People should desist from claiming they are Zipra cadres and castigating their seniors," he said.
"I feel sorry for the fellow (Cde Phuthi) because it seems he is holding his position by default. He is a semi-trained military man who doesn’t understand military structures. He claims to be Zipra and has become more Zipra than us who actually formed it. Who is he to warn war veterans?" he asked.
Cde Phuthi said war veterans in Bulawayo backed Zanu-PF National Chairman, Cde Simon Khaya Moyo for the vice-presidency and warned veterans not to be involved in an underground campaigns.
In a separate interview a war veteran, Cde Jonathan Sibanda said they would back a fellow war veteran who understands them better.
"We will back someone who will stand with us. Only President Mugabe is standing with us right now. So we should find another, a war veteran who understands us. The so called gentlemen’s agreement or culture doesn’t work," he said
Last week ex-PF-Zapu female cadres said the Zanu-PF December elective congress should not divert from the existing precedence of elevating the party national chairman to the Vice-Presidency, while Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Dr Obert Mpofu called for the opening up of the race saying reserving it for certain individuals was undemocratic.
Party spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo has also contributed to the debate, saying President Mugabe will have the final say in the choice of VP.