THERE was drama and excitement outside a top Harare hotel as former Vice-President and opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader Joice Mujuru held her first Press conference more than a year after she was kicked out of the ruling Zanu PF, officially announcing she was ready to take on her former boss, President Robert Mugabe.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/EVERSON MUSHAVA
In her first public appearance since her ejection from Zanu PF, Mujuru spelt out her vision for the country, declaring Zimbabwe is “a broken State crying out for transformation”.
Scores of diplomats, church leaders, farmers, business representatives and hordes of journalists packed the venue way before her scheduled arrival.
Other notable figures at the event included former Minister of State in her office Sylvester Nguni, former Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and
ex-Zanu PF Manicaland chairman John Mvundura.
Former Information deputy minister Bright Matonga, ex-Bikita West MP Claudius Makova, former MDC-T Harare councillor Friday Mleya, and former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation boss Henry Muradzikwa were also present, among others.
Suspected State security agents predictably swarmed the launch venue, but curiously uniformed police officers were conspicuous by their absence despite the swelling crowd outside the hotel.
After speaking to journalists, Mujuru later addressed an impromptu rally outside the hotel, where her supporters jostled to get a glimpse of the liberation war heroine-turned-opposition party leader.
And Mujuru, who was flanked by ex-State Intelligence minister Didymus Mutasa and former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, did not disappoint, calling on her lieutenants to “go thou and multiply”.
“I stand for peace,” she declared to applause from the gathered throng.
“I am not here to fight anyone. I urge you to mobilise peacefully so that we can win the 2018 general elections.”
In her prepared speech, Mujuru described Zimbabwe as a broken society “crying out for transformation”.
“Zimbabwe is a broken country. In dark times such as these, we look to the government of the day to serve as builders of a better country for all,” she said.
“We look to the government of the day to bring the change that is desired by all. We know we will not get this from the government of the day. It has broken the social contract that should exist with the Zimbabwean people.”
Mujuru said Mugabe’s administration had stolen citizens’ “right to self-determination and self-dignity” and could not provide answers to the country’s problems.
The ZimPF leader said she was humbled by “the people’s support”.
“There has been intense speculation from our detractors. There has been strong anticipation from our supporters.
“We had to resist the temptation to formalise our being and existence without adequate consultation with the people of Zimbabwe,” Mujuru said, adding ZimPF was a “viable, home-grown and inclusive political party” in what could be a direct rebuttal to potshots from Zanu PF that her political project is foreign-funded.
With Zanu PF having, since Independence, “monopolised” the country’s war of liberation at election times and labelled opposition parties agents of Western imperialism, Mujuru did not waste time to claim her share of the struggle glory and legacy.
Describing Mugabe’s government as an “unjust system”, the ZimPF leader said her party was informed by the values of the liberation struggle, quoting the late Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara’s words that “we are not fighting against the white man, but a system”.
“The legacy of the liberation struggle belongs to all Zimbabweans,” Mujuru said.
“We fought for the right to self-determination, the right to freedom, the right to vote under the principle of one-person one-vote and not one man voting for us all.
“Today, that unjust system that Zanla, Zipra and the Zimbabwean masses fought against remains a noose around our necks, as that system has stolen any hope for the people of Zimbabwe.”
She poked holes into Mugabe’s policies, chief among them the indigenisation law as well as the land reform programme.
“The investment environment is crowded by multiple incoherent policies, inadequate and unaffordable credit finance and urgent need for reform in a parasitic, non-performing parastatal sector,” Mujuru continued.
“Zimbabwe needs friendly and market-driven policies to stimulate economic activity. There should be an independent land audit to weed out multiple farm ownership and support for sustainable land use.
“A more acceptable security of tenure will replace the offer letters, which leave both recipients and lenders very insecure.”
She said her party would return Zimbabwe to the “global community” of nations, including the Commonwealth, from which Mugabe unilaterally withdrew the country following accusations of human rights abuses in 2003.
“We shall be committed to meeting our international debt obligations. We will seek rapprochement with countries that currently have poor diplomatic and difficult economic relations with Zimbabwe, without sacrificing our sovereignty,” the former Vice-President said.
In response to scepticism over her ability to change having been part of Zanu PF for decades, the ex-VP said ZimPF was “a new entity” with new values and followers from every political party in Zimbabwe, including those who had never joined any political party before.
Scepticism abounds whether Mujuru could shake off the Zanu PF tag, but she was at pains to dissociate herself from the party that had given her a first political home.
“I have known only one political party since I joined the liberation struggle,” she said.
“I am now outside that party and I will not go back. I am neither an assassin nor a witch. I have never been a pretender. That is why you never heard me encourage or promote hate speech.
“If there is any crime that I am guilty of, it is the belief in the periodic constitutional and democratic renewal of leadership from within and this is the same position I am now promoting within ZimPF.”
In a subtle reaching out to the country’s influential military establishment, Mujuru said: “We urge all our war veterans, the police, army, air force and intelligence services to defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Mujuru, like all opposition leaders, also demanded electoral reform “to ensure a level playing field so that the next election is not in any way disputed or considered flawed or rigged”.