Despite rumour flying around online and offline about the former Zimbabwean Second Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, having been granted asylum in Botswana, a ministry that would have had to be involved in the process has denied that is the case.
“We are not aware of that development as the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security,” said the spokesperson, Samma Tabudi, around close of business last Friday in response to enquiries from Sunday Standard.
Mphoko happened to have been a safe thousand nautical miles away in Japan when military tanks of the Zimbabwean Defence Forces (ZDF) rolled into Harare, secured key installations and deposed President Robert Mugabe. From Tokyo, where he was on an official visit, Mphoko reportedly contacted the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in Harare and instructed it to have the travel agency handling his trip change his itinerary. Thus instead of flying straight to Harare, he asked that he be redirected to either Zambia or Mozambique.
“A highly-placed source in the OPC said Mphoko was expected to join his family, which has already left the country and is currently holed up in Botswana, where the VP has business interests,” reports a Zimbabwean publication called News Day.
Tabudi confirmed that her statement extends to allegations about Mphoko’s family being in Botswana.
The post-coup situation is still fluid and whatever the case, it makes perfect sense why Mphoko would want to come to Botswana. Before his ascension to the third most powerful in the country, Mphoko had had a stint in the diplomatic service and been posted here as ambassador. A shareholder in Zimbabwean companies that have Botswana links ÔÇô notably Motovac and Choppies ÔÇô back home Mphoko has been faulted for having used his diplomatic posting in Gaborone to establish personal business relationships.
His son, Siqokoqela, has been associated with Capital Management Africa, a Botswana company whose deal with the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) failed to take off after then President Mugabe blocked it. The terms of the deal were that the Zimbabwean government would extend a P3 billion loan to ZESA which, through its subsidiary, the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), would refurbish Hwange Thermal Power Station. The latter is the country’s largest coal-fired power station with an installed capacity of 920 megawatts. ZPC was to then export 100 megawatts of power to the Botswana Power Corporation and pay back the loan at an interest rate of between 18 percent and 20 percent per annum.
Mugabe nixed this deal primarily because the government would have had to pay a P700 million interest. It also emerged Mphoko had played an unethical role in this deal by trying to get cabinet to approve the loan. He should never had had anything to do with the deal because Siqokoqela had 5 percent shareholding in CMA.