In November 2016, Kembo Mohadi visited the self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri, at Bushiri’s church in South Africa. At the time, Mohadi was Zimbabwe’s state security minister, but his prospects looked bleak: he appeared to be on the wrong side of the bitter race to succeed then-president Robert Mugabe.
But Bushiri had a reassuring message. The religious leader told Mohadi that he would be promoted, and would shortly be wearing a “crown”. He gave Mohadi a white handkerchief, and assured him that the piece of cloth would open new avenues, and provide protection.
“Anytime you see anything happening around you, use that handkerchief to pray,” Bushiri said.
The prophecy was soon fulfilled. Mugabe was toppled by a coup in November 2017. The new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, appointed Mohadi as one of two vice-presidents. Unlike the other vice-president, Constantine Chiwenga, Mohadi had no political base of his own; what he offered instead was unconditional loyalty to Mnangagwa, as well as his record as a liberation war hero.
But the white handkerchief appears to have lost its powers in the intervening years. Not only has Bushiri himself fallen from grace, after being charged with multiple counts of corruption; but this week Mohadi was forced to resign in disgrace after the allegation that he was conducting not one but two extramarital affairs while in office.
The allegations were published by online media house ZimLive last week, and were supported by leaked voice recordings between the vice-president and one of his alleged lovers.
In his resignation letter, released on Monday, Mohadi maintained his innocence. “I am a victim of information distortion, voice cloning and sponsored spooking and political sabotage. Digital media, in their hybridity, have been abused by my enemies to blackmail me, but my spirit will never die. Following the recurring disinformation and virilisation of my alleged immoral unions, dispensed through awkward slacktivism, I am stepping down as the vice-president of the Republic of Zimbabwe,” he wrote, adding that he would seek legal recourse.
ZimLive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu stands by his story, and the authenticity of the recordings. “Unfortunately, now that it is a legal matter, we are constrained to say more, suffice to say when all is revealed, it will become clear that his claims of a political conspiracy by his enemies are just that — hot air,” Mathuthu told the Mail & Guardian. “He has caused much damage and he must carry his own cross and stop blaming everyone else for his actions.”
Marvelous Khumalo, the spokesperson of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that Mohadi’s behaviour was clearly not befitting the stature of the office he held. “His resignation is justified because he embarrassed the nation. But the biggest question is, who is clean of all the members of the Presidium? They should all resign because their moral uprightness is highly questionable.”
Mnangagwa has yet to appoint a replacement for Mohadi.