Women’s groups pressured Kembo Mohadi to step down, a rare move by top public officials in the country.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Resigns Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct
Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi resigned on March 1, a day after the release of recordings of phone conversations in which he allegedly solicits sex from married women.
Mohadi had been under pressure to resign from various women’s rights groups amid other allegations of sexual misconduct.
The vice president is only the second top public official to step down in the country’s recent history. Former president Canaan Banana, serving in a mostly ceremonial role, resigned in 1987 after the Constitution was amended to make the presidency an executive post. In 1999, he was convicted on several sexual assault charges and served six months in jail.
Mohadi’s resignation was announced by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on the evening of March 1, at a time when several women’s rights groups were calling for Mohadi’s ouster.
“VP Kembo Mohadi has tendered his resignation to H.E President @edmnangagwa with immediate effect,” the ministry tweeted.
However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, tweeted that Mohadi had handed in his resignation letter to the president a week earlier.
In his letter, Mohadi said that he had arrived at his decision to resign not as a matter of cowardice, but as a sign of demonstrating “great respect to the office of the President.” He insisted on his innocence.
“Following the recurring disinformation and virilization of my alleged immoral unions, dispensed through awkward slacktivism, I am stepping down as the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe in terms of Section 96(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (No. 20) Act, 2013 with immediate effect,” Mohadi’s letter states.
Mohadi served in several ministerial positions under former president Robert Mugabe. He was appointed vice president in 2017 following the longtime ruler’s ouster.
The events leading to Mohadi’s resignation began on Feb. 15, when news website ZimLive released an alleged audio recording between Mohadi and a married junior intelligence officer who had worked in his office since 2019.
In that recording and in another one released the following day, Mohadi is allegedly heard referring to the woman as his “wife.” In the second recording, Mohadi, allegedly tells the woman that he loves her, and that his mind was made up forever. The woman does not respond to those overtures, but instead turns her attention to “stuff” that Mohadi drank, referring to a source of possible sexual enhancement. Mohadi allegedly confirms he drank two cups, and the woman responds: “You will overdose.”
ZimLive released another recording on Feb. 18, allegedly of Mohadi pressuring another married woman to have sex in his office.
The recording starts off with the woman revealing that she has stopped taking contraceptives due to an issue she was having with them. Mohadi allegedly expresses concern, and then pressures her for sex.
The woman proceeds to desperately ask for money from Mohadi. He promises that it will come the following week.
In a third recording, released Feb. 21, Mohadi is allegedly seeking to draw a female college student — whose tuition he has been paying— into a sexual relationship.
In the recording, Mohadi allegedly is heard pressuring her to visit his hotel room in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.
“I am in your town. Didn’t I tell you I would advise you when I get into your town?” Mohadi says.
“All right,” the student replies.
“I am at this place called Holiday Inn,” Mohadi says.
“Oh, that’s nice,” the college student responds.
“It would have been nice to see my one,” Mohadi says.
The college student politely declines because she has strict parents, but she quickly adds that had she still been at work, she would have asked to be “dropped off” at the hotel instead of at her home.
ZimLive later reported that the college student met Mohadi through her brother in 2016, after which Mohadi allegedly arranged to meet her in a separate encounter, promising to pay for her college tuition, which she desperately needed.
In 2017, Mohadi allegedly started calling her, professing love and requesting sex.
These allegations led to calls for Mohadi’s resignation by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Women and Law in Southern Africa, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe.
Evernice Munando, chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, said Mohadi showed “good leadership qualities” by resigning.
Sitabile Dewa, executive director of the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence, also welcomed Mohadi’s resignation.
“As a woman’s organization, we have zero tolerance on issues of sexual abuse and abuse of authority and office,” she said.
Dewa also said President Mnangagwa should consider appointing a female vice president.
Musa Kika, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said the whole point is about what citizens expect from public servants in terms of their moral behavior.
“Our Constitution requires that those high offices be occupied by upstanding individuals who are exemplary in their conduct and who conduct themselves commensurate to the dignity that’s required of those offices,” Kika said. “So, what the former vice president had done is exactly contrary to that.
“You do not know whether he had done it or not, but the fact that there was smoke. It called for an investigation, and now that he has resigned, that is great.”
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Matthew B. Hall)