The backers of former Zimbabwe Vice President Joyce Mujuru, the majority of them distinguished liberation war heroes, have come out guns blazing in defense of her and vowing to protect her like a “queen bee” from possible harm by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.
In an exclusive interview with Voice of America, the interim spokesman Rugare Gumbo of the People First project that is fronted by Mrs. Mujuru, said her life is in danger and this has delayed the launch of a party to challenge Mr. Mugabe in the 2018 presidential election.
QUEEN BEE MUJURU
Responding to a question why the former vice president has remained reclusive since she was expelled from the ruling party early this year, Gumbo said it was a question of strategy influenced largely by their experience during the protracted war against the colonial government of the late Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith.
Gumbo said, “Some of us were involved in the fight against the Smith regime. We were responsible for formulating strategies. We work on the principle of the beehive. The queen bee (Mrs. Mujuru) must be protected and it is protected. They have tried all the strategies to try to find out what she is doing and they can’t find it and that is why they have resorted to propaganda saying Mai (Mrs) Mujuru is not prepared to be president … that she is still a member of Zanu-PF.”
Gumbo, who was expelled from Zanu-PF together with Mrs. Mujuru is the only surviving member of Dare reChimurenga, the highly-rated war council that strategized ways to defeat the late Smith.
The Dare reChimurenga was also charged with spearheading the armed struggle for Independence.
Other members of the group who are all late are Kumbirai Kangai, Herbert Chitepo, Kudzai Mudzi, Henry Hamadziripi, Noel Mukono, Josiah Tongogara and John Mataure.
Political analysts say Mrs. Mujuru has to be careful as Mr. Mugabe is known to use the tool of treason to silence his critics.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper noted at one time that “it is almost election time in Zimbabwe and the treason season is upon us. In fact, anyone looking to challenge President Robert Mugabe for the presidency of Zimbabwe and before that the prime ministership, first has to leap the hurdle of a treason trial.
It has become a sort of initiation and the higher the stakes or the stronger the opposition the more likely a treason trial will be in the run up to the elections.”
Those who have been charged with treason beginning in 1982 include Dumiso Dabengwa, former intelligence chief of ZIPRA (the armed wing of ZAPU, political rival of Mugabe's ZANU party during the liberation war), and the late ZIPRA commander Lookout Masuku, who was the deputy commander of the then integrated Zimbabwe National Army soon after independence.
In the same year, the late Zapu leader and veteran nationalist Vice President Joshua Nkomo was also charged with treason. In 1995, the late Ndabaningi Sithole, leader of the opposition Zanu (Ndonga) was also charged with treason.
In 2002, it was the turn of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), his then secretary-general Welshman Ncube, and senior official Renson Gasela. Tendai Biti also a former MDC secretary general and now leader of the opposition People's Democratic Party was also charged with treason in 2008.
DEATH OF GENERAL SOLOMON MUJURU
Some political analysts say Mrs. Mujuru has every reason to fear for her life as her husband, a decorated liberation war hero, General Solomon Mujuru died in a mysterious fire at his farm near Harare in 2011.
He was one of Zimbabwe's most revered independence warriors, a multi-starred general who guided Mr. Mugabe to power and was regarded as the party’s king maker.
The police account of the fire that killed General Mujuru states that the blaze was started by a candle, lit by household staff following a power cut.
Read part of the report by magistrate Walter Chikwanha, " … Despite the suppositions, speculations, conjectures by various people including the deceased's relatives, nothing concrete, and no evidence at all was placed before the court to show there was foul play in the death of the deceased."
But the family of the general disputed those claims and they claimed they were vindicated when after his death he was accused of plotting to eliminate Mr. Mugabe.
The allegation first surfaced in a Zanu-PF party disciplinary report which was the basis for expelling Mrs. Mujuru from the party. The report claims that the late general together with his widow wanted Mr. Mugabe out of power and the two had been plotting for a long time.
Read the report, “As way back as 2009 the government and the party was aware that Joice Mujuru and her late husband, the late Rex Nhongo Mujuru, were plotting to remove President Mugabe.
The vilification did not end there, addressing his party’s Women’s League, Mr. Mugabe reiterated those allegations. The president alleged General Mujuru wanted to oust him after deciding that his policies were destroying the country and that people could not “suffer because of one man.”
According to President Mugabe, Mujuru plotted with former Zanu-PF politburo member Simba Makoni and academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza to find a new leader for the ruling party.
“These three among others Mujuru, Makoni and Mandaza said Zanu-PF was being held back by Mugabe who continues to stick to socialism,” said Mugabe.
These remarks irked the Mujuru family, which has always disputed the official version of his death even threatening to exhume his remains to carry out an independent autopsy.
Against this background, Gumbo said the other reason their project is not being launched is to let Zanu-PF tear itself apart as factional fights to succeed Mr. Mugabe intensify.
President Mugabe would be 94 in 2018 when the next general elections are due. Two alleged Zanu-PF factions one led by vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the other led by the so-called Young Turks or Generation 40 who include the increasingly powerful first lady Grace Mugabe, Local Government Minister and party political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Mr. Mugabe’s nephew and Indigenization Minister Patrick Zhuwawo have now emerged.
Gumbo claimed the ruling party had been infiltrated by people who wanted to destroy it from within, noting that they had tried to warn Mr. Mugabe but to no avail.
"We want this nonsense of factionalism (in Zanu-PF) to unfold and reach its peak. That is perhaps the time we can flex our muscles and say we are launching a party."
MUGABE A FAILURE
On the state of the economy, Gumbo charged that there will not be an economic turnaround as long as Mr. Mugabe remains at the helm.
“There is no way Zimbabwe can be turned around economically under the current leadership. We have said time and time again that they (Mugabe’s government) are clueless about what to do with the economy. There are inconsistencies in policy implementation.”
Gumbo cited the public spats between Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet officials on how to resuscitate the economy as an indication that all is not well in the government.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, trying to normalize ties with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has been hit by friendly fire from ministers such as Zhuwawo and War Veterans Minister Chris Mutsvangwa.
Gumbo also hinted that should Mrs. Mujuru win the 2018 presidential election she will do away with the controversial Indigenization law, which is a signature policy of Mr. Mugabe. Gumbo said the law is scaring away investors and is one of the major reasons the economy is comatose.
“Should we get into power, things like the indigenous policy we have to examine it and if possible do away with it. It does not serve any purpose. I know there are people who have argued that indigenization ensures sovereignty but what sovereignty when we have lost jobs, unemployment is high.”
OPPOSITION COW HORN FORMATION AGAINST MUGABE
Gumbo said People First stalwarts have started engaging some opposition parties raising a prospect of a united opposition front to challenge Mr. Mugabe.
He confirmed reaching out to former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti of the People’s Democratic Party, Simba Makoni of Mavambo Kusile Dawn and Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu.
“We have said time and time again that we are going to work with all democratic forces that share our values, our views, our way of doing things.”
WHO IS DR JOICE MUJURU?
Joice Mujuru was born Runaida Mugari on April 15, 1955, in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central province. She joined the liberation war as a teenager. She took the nom-de-guerre Teurai Ropa (spill blood), and then rose to become one of the first women commanders in ZANLA forces.
At independence in 1980, Mrs. Mujuru became the youngest cabinet minister, taking the portfolio of sports, youth and recreation.
She rose through the ranks to become vice president from 2004 until she was expelled from the party in 2014. She graduated with a doctorate degree last year from the University of Zimbabwe.