Zimbabwe’s former vice president, who was on a trip abroad during last month’s military takeover that led to Robert Mugabe’s resignation, has returned home, local media reported Saturday.
Phelekezela Mphoko was the second deputy appointed in 2014 by longtime strongman Mugabe, along with current President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mphoko had flown to Japan on official business the day before the army took over the country in an operation that culminated in Mugabe’s ouster after a 37-year rule.
But instead of returning home at the end of his mission, Mphoko sought sanctuary in Botswana, where he remained until Friday.
“Mr Mphoko and his family arrived at the Zimbabwean side of the border at 1:15 pm (1115 GMT) aboard a Zimbabwe department of immigration minibus accompanied by Botswana immigration officials,” The Herald newspaper reported.
He was with his wife Laurinda, son Siqokoqela and seven other family members, the paper added.
According to The Herald, Mphoko spoke to Mnangagwa by phone and got “the necessary assurances that he was free to come back to Zimbabwe”.
The former vice president and longtime diplomat — less well-known in the country than popular Mnangagwa — was reportedly a member of a faction in the ruling ZANU-PF which rallied behind Mugabe’s wife Grace and backed her bid to replace her husband as president.
They were reportedly expelled from the party for “engaging in activities meant to destabilise the Government”.
Former finance minister and alleged member of the faction, Ignatius Chombo, was last week the first Mugabe loyalist to be charged by the new government on fraud charges dating from 2004-2009, when he held a different ministerial role.
Other senior members of the so-called G-40 faction are believed to be in hiding.
Mnangagwa, 75, named his cabinet overnight Thursday and he is expected to appoint his two vice presidents following a special ZANU-PF congress in mid-December, according to a government statement issued Saturday.
But he has come under fire for naming two military allies to top positions in his new cabinet, including Sibusiso Moyo, a major general who on November 15 went on state TV to announce the military’s takeover — a power grab which led to the 93-year-old Mugabe quitting the presidency a week later.
Another cabinet minister is the airforce boss — Air Marshal Perence Shiri, who had previously headed a special North-Korean trained unit that is alleged to have committed atrocities during a crackdown on a rebellion in the western Matabeleland province in the early 1980s.
An estimated 20,000 people were killed during the campaign known as Gukurahundi.
Mnangagwa was also criticised for recycling ministers from Mugabe’s discredited era.
Following public outcry, he dropped Lazarous Dokora as education minister on Saturday, replacing him with professor Paul Mavima, another ZANU-PF legislator.