Zimbabwean Vice President Joyce Mujuru appeared to be staking out some new and surprisingly independent positions in a televised interview Tuesday, declaring among other things that she will "not stand on a shaky stool and reach for the presidency" though she is thought to be President Robert Mugabe's handpicked successor.
More surprising still, Mujuru seemed to discount Western sanctions as the main cause of Zimbabwe’s economic problems, a position held by most senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party. She also took a swipe at cabinet ministers who pursue their own financial interests rather than seeing to the well-being of the country.
The president made Mujuru one of the country’s two vice presidents in late 2004 while expelling several prominent politicians perceived to have challenged his authority by holding an unsanctioned meeting to discuss how to block Mujuru's nomination. One prominent casualty of that episode was then-information minister Jonathan Moyo.
Mujuru has maintained a low profile since then – even when taking on the ceremonial role of acting president when Mr. Mugabe leaves the country. Reports said she was acting in that capacity when she made the speech, though official press releases indicated Mr. Mugabe was home from a Malaysian vaction by Wednesday.
She was involved in the 1970s liberation struggle and previously headed the ZANU-PF women’s movement. She is married to retired army general Solomon Mujuru, who is known to be close to Mugabe and wields significant clout within ZANU-PF.
Reporter Chinedu Offor of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, who said that he found the timing of the vice president’s comments highly significant.