Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru yesterday addressed her maiden rally as an opposition leader, drawing thousands of people and rival opposition leaders in Bulawayo, raising the prospects of a coalition to fight President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 elections.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/KHANYILE MLOTSHWA
The Zimbabwe People First Party (ZimPF) leader had been lying low since announcing the formation of the party in February.
Her rally, held at the iconic Stanley Square, marked the beginning of a series of activities that are expected to culminate in the launch of ZimPF in Harare at the end of July.
It was attended by senior leaders from the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who included secretary-general Gorden Moyo. PDP also pledged solidarity with ZimPF in a statement issued yesterday.
The rally attracted an array of former government ministers that inluded former Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, former Minister of State in Mujuru’s office Sylvester Nguni, ex-MDC-T MP Albert Mhlanga, former Bulawayo deputy mayor Amen Mpofu and other well-known politicians in the city.
Mujuru was well-received, with her entrance into the Stanley Square in Makokoba sparking wild cheers from the crowd that was dominated by the youth.
Throughout her speech, Mujuru was interrupted by wild cheers and jingles, “Together with Mother Zimbabwe, Mujuru to State House.”
Meanwhile, Mujuru took advantage of the rally to deny allegations that she insulted the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo after he intervened in the Econet licensing saga in 1997.
Mujuru said she knew that many people had questions about her alleged denigrating of “Father Zimbabwe”, as Nkomo was popularly known, and apologised for not clarifying the matter at the time.
“A lot has been said about me denigrating Father Zimbabwe. Media is good, but sometimes the media overexaggerates,” Mujuru said.
“To me, Father Zimbabwe, in reality, was my father. But once you belong to different political parties, they [media] want to widen the gap between you and the people.
“That is why I decided to talk about it. For a long time, you have been hoodwinked and I want to say sorry about that misleading silence [on the matter].”
In 1997, Mujuru, who was then the Information, Posts and Telecommunications minister, turned down an application by Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa for a licence to operate a third cellular network company.
Masiyiwa then sought the assistance of Nkomo, who was at that time acting-president.
Mujuru defied Nkomo’s instructions to award the then young entrepreneur the licence, suggesting that Masiyiwa could have taken advantage of the vice-president’s old age and diminishing mental faculties.
Nkomo died two years later aged 82.
Mujuru said she also knew that people were asking themselves questions about the time she served under the Zanu PF government in a bid to discredit her.
“You are also asking a lot of questions about my stay in government,” she said. “I have been in government for a long time, 24 years as a cabinet minister, including the ministry of defence; and 10 years as vice-president to Robert Mugabe.
“I mentioned my age (18 years) at the time of going to the liberation struggle deliberately.
“My age when I came back was 25 years, and even the little education had vanished. There are people who take advantage of such things. That is why as People First, we should be able to lead our youth correctly so that we don’t mislead them.”
The former VP said there was a need to engage in new politics as the current situation was “wrong”.
“We have to face the task of uniting the Zimbabwean family,” she said. “There are a lot of people with a lot of problems. Some are old people who can’t acquire national identity documents,” she said.
“We have to work on such issues. This is part of what has made us come to Bulawayo for our first rally.
“We have a problem of other people looking down on certain tribes and certain regions. We need to address these matters in the People First government.”
Mujuru said ZimPF was a party of “people-centred, national democrats.”
“We are children of Zimbabwe who fought the liberation struggles, and we are emphasising inclusivity as we say we fought the liberation struggle for self-determination. Even my relatives in Binga are as important as those in Makokoba,” she said.
“Those in Jambezi are as important as those in Pelandaba. Even in Lupane, that’s their home, they should enjoy just as you and me. If they are not important, why do you seek their vote? As People First, we are saying any time, any day, anywhere, whosoever is equal in the eyes of God.”
Mujuru said there was a need for opposition political parties to unite in finding a solution to Zimbabwe’s problems.
“As opposition parties, we should maximise on our similarities as democratic forces,” she said.
“Otherwise we will spend a lot of time fighting when people are suffering.
“As People First, we don’t look at sanctions as the only cause of the economic decline.
“There is something that destroyed the economy. What we did is what created sanctions. It is easy to blame other than to introspect.”
Mujuru wants to challenge Mugabe in the 2018 polls.