Zimbabwe: Will ex-deputy president Kembo Mohadi come back in 2023?

By Farai Shawn Matiashe

Posted on Friday, 25 November 2022 11:54
Kembo Mohadi in Harare, on December 28, 2017. (Photo by Wilfred Kajese / AFP)

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa re-appointed former vice president Kembo Mohadi as the deputy president and second secretary at the recent Zanu PF elective congress, it was a strong indication that despite a sex scandal involving Mohadi, he is likely to come back next year should his boss win the 2023 general election.

Amid a sex scandal, Mohadi was forced to resign in 2021; a move that is rare among Zanu PF politicians.

Mohadi was exposed in leaked phone calls, likely to have been intercepted by the country’s security agency; the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

He was using his office to solicit sex from married women including some of his aides.

Speaking at the Zanu PF elective congress in October Mnangagwa jokingly said Mohadi “is a naughty but honest person” as he is the only top official who openly said he would want to be president after his boss finishes his tenure.

Keeping Mohadi appeases the Ndebele tribe

Eldred Masunungure, a Harare-based political analyst, says there is a high likelihood of Mohadi being reinstated as state vice president after his rehabilitation and by virtue of having been reappointed party vice president at the last congress.

“It would be a historical oddity if Mohadi is just party vice president and someone else is appointed state vice president representing the former Zimbabwe African People’s Union – Federal Party (Zapu-PF),” he tells The Africa Report.

“In any case, that scenario would require amending the party constitution to facilitate this oddity,” he adds.

  • Zapu PF is a former liberation struggle political party, based in Matabeleland Province, a region mostly dominated by Ndebele-speaking people.
  • Just like Zanu PF, this political party had its own military wing known as Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) and Mohadi and other current top Zanu PF officials are ZIPRA war veterans.
  • Shortly after Zimbabwe’s Independence from Britain in 1980, then-leader Robert Mugabe and his mentee Mnangagwa (who was state security minister at the time) deployed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, an elite force of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to massacre more than 20,000 mostly Ndebeles and Shonas in Matabeleland and Midlands Provinces in what is known as Gukurahundi.
  • Gukurahundi is a Shona name meaning early rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rains. The massacre was meant to silence Zanu PF’s revolutionary counterpart, ZAPU, then led by Joshua Nkomo of the Ndebele tribe, accusing them of plotting a war to unconstitutionally remove an elected government.
  • On 22 December 1987, Mugabe and Nkomo signed an agreement known locally as the Unity Accord to solve the conflict between their two revolutionary parties.
  • Since then, there has been a second vice president from the Ndebele tribe as part of the Unity Accord agreement.

“Crucially, Mohadi serves the symbolic purpose of satisfying the Unity Accord of having one of the VPs from former Zapu PF, thus appeasing the Ndebele community,” Masunungure said.

There is a lot of elite discohesion in Zanu PF and there is always a need to maintain the Shona-Ndebele “balance”, says Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst.

“Mohadi could be on his way back to the country’s vice president role,” he tells The Africa Report.

Mohadi is Mnangagwa’s loyalist

Mohadi is loyal to Mnangagwa, says Vivid Gwede, a political analyst.

“Mohadi is one of the few people who have been heading the security ministries under Mugabe since 1980 and appears to have been close to Mnangagwa,” he says.

When Mohadi stepped down as deputy president, he denied all the wrongdoing and insisted that he was a victim of disinformation, voice cloning, and political sabotage.

Since his resignation in 2021, he has been stationed at Zanu PF headquarters as the party’s second secretary.

But he has been enjoying the same privileges that a state vice president enjoys including state security, cars and allowances, according to government sources.

Mohadi has been crucial in mobilising support for Mnangagwa’s re-election bid both within Zanu PF and in national elections in 2023.


Masunungure says Mohadi is being kept by Mnangagwa because he is non-threatening, unlike his current deputy president Constantino Chiwenga.

“Mohadi is a safe and unthreatening pair of hands with limited political ambitions beyond occupying the venerated positions. The appointer, in this case, Mnangagwa, can sleep with both eyes closed, a luxury he cannot afford with respect to his other vice president,” he says.

Chiwenga, a former military commander, played a critical role in a military coup that propelled Mnangagwa to power in November 2017.

Chiwenga’s presidential ambitions have been shattered for now after Mnangagwa was endorsed at the elective congress to run for a second term, despite the coup agreement that the latter would step down for the former to take over after one term.

Gwede says Mohadi would be a suitable counterweight to Chiwenga, the first vice president and would-be successor who is also a security man.

Top Zanu PF officials eyeing vice president post

War veterans from the Matabeleland region, including former Home Affairs minister and Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, Women Affairs minister and Bulawayo provincial minister Judith Ncube are potential rivals to Mohadi within the ruling party.

“Mpofu’s vaunting political ambitions are clear and was reportedly eyeing the vice president post after the November 2017 soft coup,” says Masunungure.

Mohadi is a safe and unthreatening pair of hands with limited political ambitions beyond occupying the venerated positions. The appointer, in this case, Mnangagwa, can sleep with both eyes closed.

“The two women are quietly waiting in the wings and one of them could potentially spring a surprise, leaving Mohadi and Mpofu in the lurch. On balance, however, I think the state vice president post is Mohadi’s and hopefully, he will thereafter stop soliciting sex from his aides.”

Gwede says, of course, there would be others in Matabeleland and former ZIPRA officials eyeing the post of vice president in line with the Unity Accord.

“But it appears at the moment that Mohadi is likely to bounce back,” he says.

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