Ex-vice-president Joi-ce Mujuru (JM) says Zimbabwe is lucky to have Mugabe alive at his age as someone who could give the country spiritual guidance.
She says however, in an exclusive interview with DW’s Privilege Musvanhiri, that Mugabe should have groomed a successor long ago.
DW: What inspired the formation of your political party Zimbabwe People First?
JM: People First felt that people’s aspirations were not being realised because of how the rule of law was being flattened.
The revolution has now been forgotten, buried and freedom fighters are angry with that. Having one of their own being vice-president and being chucked out just like that and asking me whether I had actually committed the litany of accusations and getting the answer no, they felt betrayed.
I told them I felt the same. I got the support of the masses who wanted us to create another party which will now involve ourselves, freedom fighters, to show them that we would not allow them to bury the struggle. So I was ready to take up the challenge.
DW: Why name it Zimbabwe People First (ZPF). It rhymes with where you are coming from (Zanu PF)?
JM: One thing you should know is that whatever is being announced by ZPF has to do with the struggle. This shows we are reminding Zanu PF: you have missed the boat, you have lost it all. You have also lost the freedom fighters. Hence, we have taken back what we fought for.
DW: For more than 30 years you were part of Mugabe’s government. What made you change sides?
JM: Exactly what I have been telling you, that they have missed us. You know even if you say Zanu PF is violent, the actual freedom fighters are not violent people. During the war, we used to teach people that fighters and masses are like fish and water. They are one and the same thing. You don’t destabilise each other.
So when you hear that freedom fighters are being asked to go and beat the masses, to me as a person, this is unthinkable. I do not understand why a freedom fighter would go and beat up a man and kill him.
That is why I could see that there was a difference between the Zanu PF I knew and the one that now existed.
DW: Why should Zimbabweans believe in your party and vote you to be the next president?
JM: This is not my party. It is the people’s party. This party is now made up of former [members of the opposition party] MDC [Movement for Democratic Change], former Zanu PF, those who have never joined any political party and the young people who have only voted two or three times.
They have joined this party because we understand each other. I have been telling them that some of the things that are now happening in Zanu PF are not the true Zanu PF ideals and values. Our values are the people themselves and that is the core-value of this country. As People First, we value our people and we value peace.
DW: Your party leadership is composed of people who were expelled like yourself from Zanu PF and this has raised scepticism whether you are going to make any difference?
JM: I am sure you are talking about the founding elders. As the name states, they are founding elders. They were the ones who supported us and said we should have an all-inclusive party. We cannot say we don’t want them.
They are our advisers and people who give encouragement to the young ones to come to the party. The young ones are leaders in the community because they can run and give impetus to the job that has to be done.
We are encouraging more people to join us because we don’t want to be just a few of us. We want them to tell us what it is that is missing and how Zimbabwe should move forward.
DW: You were part of a system that you are now calling unjust. How do you answer for the role that you played in the years that you were part of it?
JM: If you are in administration, it does not mean that you agree with whatever happens in there. As much as I was part of that administration, it was a learning curve. Mind you, I was there as a young person.
I was being inducted when bad things were happening, but I saw that this is not good. Now I want to see good things happen in People First.
Things should be done in an inclusive way, where people say let us rebuild and transform Zimbabwe. With new minds from MDC and all over, I don’t think we can go wrong.
DW: Critics say you are making a tactical error in adopting what may be called a soft stance on your former party and boss Mugabe. Why are you choosing to be soft?
JM: We are not in a fighting mood as People First. We don’t promote hate speech and we don’t retaliate. Mind you, President Mugabe is not a young person. He is 92. Your grandfather of 92 would not even be looking after goats or making any serious family decisions.
He would not be involved in anything. That is where the mistake is. To me, he is a spirit. That is why I don’t agree and sometimes I wonder that people of this country almost believed that I wanted to kill him.
In my culture, you don’t raise a finger to a man or a woman who is your mother or your grandfather’s age. It is spiritual, he is now a living spirit and we are lucky to have him alive.
If you want to talk to your departed grandfather, you talk to them through him and you don’t have to wrong him, because at his age he is just there to sit around and be respected as a living spirit. I don’t want to destabilise a living spirit.
DW: How confident are you that you will give President Mugabe tough competition come 2018? Is there a likelihood that you will join forces with opposition parties to ensure victory against Zanu PF?
JM: We’re still forming our party and we should be given a chance. Being a democratic party, we should be given a chance to unite or communicate with like-minded parties. I can’t forecast what is likely to happen but time will tell.
DW: The greatest challenge Zimbabwe has had is leadership renewal. Mugabe is still in power at 92. What assurances are you giving to the people that you will not do the same?
JM: We’ve already put measures in place in our draft constitution for two terms in office and that’s enough. A good leader grooms, advises and hands over power to a successor. You can’t say that this country will collapse if it’s run by someone else. What if you die today, does that mean the whole country dies with you? That’s why Zimbabwe is where it is today. Because he failed to groom a successor to take over.
DW: It’s common knowledge that political leadership, particularly that of Zanu PF, is often not accountable to the electorate. How are you going to curb this culture?
JM: In our constitution, we’ve made it clear that we will use a secret ballot and respect the people’s choice and the regional balance.
DW: The recent development of the government to close Chiadzwa diamonds mines resulted in chaos. What’s your view on this move?
JM: I am puzzled by the decision to close the mines, particularly with China on board. These issues need to be treated equally and we must be rational because we’re living in a global village and these actions will deter global investors. We should be working towards attracting both local and international investors.
DW: The country is experiencing a drought and the government was slow in seeking international humanitarian assistance. What do you think about the way government has handled the humanitarian situation?
JM: If government were serious, they would have put in place measures to support people to make the most of our land since it is our greatest asset. If people were shown how to utilise their land, last year’s harvest would be available for this year.
Joice Mujuru served as vice- president under Mugabe from 2004 to 2014.
She held several government posts since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. In April 2015, she was expelled from Zanu PF for allegedly plotting against Mugabe.