Former vice-president Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru (JTM) has addressed two rallies, one in Bulawayo and another in Harare, effectively asserting her position in Zimbabwe’s opposition politics following her controversial expulsion from Zanu PF.
She is set to address Masvingo next weekend before proceeding to other provinces ahead of the launch of her party, Zimbabwe People First on a date to be announced. The Standard Chief Reporter Everson Mushava (EM) caught up with Mujuru last week to discuss various issues regarding her party, elections, the economy and other issues. Below are excerpts of the interview.
EM: What is your response to assertions that opposition parties can only defeat President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in the next elections if they form a coalition?
JTM: Those that make the assertion have reasons to support their observation. It could be a way, but not a grand narrative. My understanding is that Mugabe will be defeated if anyone can come up with more votes than him. Coalition doesn’t always quantify votes.
You might have a coalition and the majority of people vote for Mugabe, that coalition will have lost the vote. What is needed is to mobilise a popular vote against Mugabe and Zanu PF. If a coalition is what it takes, why not? But there are many things that need to be done and a coalition is only one of them.
We have a lot of things that need to be put in place, like mechanisms to foil electoral chicanery, mobilising our people to register to vote and providing them with plausible policy issues that give them a drive to vote for us. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, not just talking about coalitions.
EM: What plans do you have in place to ensure a free and fair election, considering the history of disputed elections in Zimbabwe?
JTM: Sharing with you publicly our plans, our strategy would be the greatest betrayal I would have done to our people. Suffice to say, we know the shenanigans, and we have put in place plans to counter them to ensure our supporters’ votes are not put to waste.
EM: Prior to the Bulawayo rally, you were criticised for being too quiet on the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe to an extent that some ZimPF supporters staged a demonstration outside your house. What is your comment?
JTM: No People First supporters demonstrated at my house. Demonstrate for what? If they were our supporters, they would never demonstrate because they would have known that their president has an open door policy. I talk to everyone, I am available even on social networks, so why would anyone who claims to be ZimPF demonstrate against a president they can interact with on social platforms?
You see, I am not an attention-seeker. I don’t just talk because I love to hear the sound of my voice or to make a newspaper headline. I was militarily trained to plan, strategise and execute my plan at the appropriate time.
You see, keeping quiet does not mean we are not working. It is not strategic, and a hallmark of a failed politician to be loud-mouthed. I have a work-plan, a strategic work schedule that I follow and I will never be rushed because someone says I have gone quiet. ZimPF is a proactive party, we are not jolted into reacting. We have a clear plan that we follow; that is who we are.
EM: There are allegations that you intend to side-line some ZimPF founder members such as Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa. Is there any truth in that?
JTM: I am glad you used the word allegations.
They are just that, unfounded and childish allegations. ZimPF is a party that is recruiting, we need everyone and we welcome everybody. We do not ostracise, sideline or push out anyone. I said we are strong in our numbers and we want the numbers, so how could we push out our core-founding elders?
There were speculations to that effect after VaGumbo and VaMutasa failed to attend our Bulawayo rally because they were not feeling well, but did you not see them in Harare? Like I said, these are just allegations with no substance.
EM: What do you consider the most important lessons you have learnt since joining the opposition ranks?
JTM: The lessons that we have learnt so far are part of our strategy, we will keep them to ourselves for now.
EM: You were not happy with the outcome of the inquest into the death of your husband General Solomon Mujuru, what have you done as a family to find closure?
JTM: God knows the truth about what happened and he alone can give us closure. We are praying that one day we will know what really happened. God has his ways and we wait upon him to act.
EM: In a recent interview with the New York Times, you indicated that Mugabe and his wife did not seem to be mourning Mujuru’s death with you. (You said Mugabe told you at the mortuary that you would be acting-president and he left for Angola, while Grace seemed more interested in your house). Why do you think they exhibited such indifference? Do you think the government or someone in a position of authority knows what happened to your husband?
JTM: Certainly someone should know. It is not possible for such a calamity to befall us as a family, as a country and no one knows. It is not possible. If no one knows, God certainly knows.
EM: Mugabe has accused your husband and yourself of being behind Simba Makoni’s Mavambo, what is your reaction to that and do you think the president and Gen Mujuru’s relationship had broken down by the time of his death?
JTM: Mugabe has accused me, my family and my late husband of many things. But does an accusation become true simply because it has been made by Mugabe? But let’s say his accusations were true, constitutionally there wasn’t anything wrong with helping someone to form a political party.
Is that a crime? Anyway, his accusations were false and we are hearing many of Mugabe’s proxies, those that were peddling the same falsehoods publicly claiming that it was political banter.
Some have gone to the extent of giving us details, saying the president bought us suits, gave us money to soil your name. I have heard all this and I forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Some of them are just children, my children, who acted in juvenile ignorance. I don’t hold anything against them. It is heartening that they have seen the light and also that they have the courage to come out publicly to say they are sorry, to say they were used.
We have also heard what the leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, Simba Makoni, said about the same accusations.
EM: How do you want your husband to be remembered? do you think Zanu PF would have treated you the way it did if he was still alive?
JTM: Solomon was a people’s person. He was their soldier, their commander, their hero. He worked hard to bring together Zipra and Zanla during the liberation struggle. Because he had worked with Zipra before joining Zanla, he had acquaintances in both liberation war armies, hence it was easy for him to bring them together. It is also for the same reason that he had to be called back from Pakistan where he was attending a military course when Gukurahundi started. He had to be called back to try to find ways of ending the fighting that had started in his absence.
In short, Solomon was a people’s person and the people showed it when they came in their thousands to pay their last respects to him, the biggest crowd ever to come to the Heroes Acre for the burial of a national hero.
It is, therefore, not me who should prescribe how he should be remembered. It is up to the people to decide how they want to remember him. As a family, we loved him, we have our special way of remembering him and it remains a family tradition that I wish to keep within the family.
EM: Do you think he would have approved of your decision to turn to opposition politics after you left Zanu PF?
JTM: Certainly yes; there are many decisions that I took that he supported. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t support this one.
EM: Jonathan Moyo recently said you are corrupt and you are not yet off the hook. Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the same and a lot of people said you were responsible for the plunder of diamonds in Chiadzwa. What is your defence to that and can you shed light on how the name “churu chamai Mujuru” [Mrs Mujuru’s antihill] came into being in Chiadzwa.
JTM: I thought he was the same Moyo who talked about all this being political banter. As for churu chamai Mujuru, there was a Cabinet taskforce that had VaMutasa, VaSekeramayi [Sydney Sekeramayi], Mai [Oppah] Muchinguri-Kashiri, VaMushohwe [Chris Mushohwe] and the late [Amos] VaMidzi who investigated that.
They found out that the people of Chiadzwa who are next to Cashel Valley where I was instrumental in setting up a horticulture project were bragging to their Cashel Valley counterparts that now they had their own source of foreign currency when diamonds were found in their area.
The Cashel Valley farmers were exporting their horticulture to London and were getting foreign currency at a time when other Zimbabweans were getting foreign currency through “burning”.
They were getting back at their neighbours, in a jocular way, because for many years the Cashel Valley horticulture farmers bragged about what Mai Mujuru had done for them and when the Chiadzwa villagers discovered diamonds, they too hit back and nicknamed a field “churu chaMai Mujuru”. I have also heard that there were Zupco buses nicknamed ‘zvimai Mujuru’, does it mean I own the buses? That’s what happens when people fall in love with you as a person; you become a subject of their jests. It is normal and I take no offence.
But if there is anyone who insists that I committed any crime, could there be any better time than now to prosecute Mai Mujuru? Let those that have evidence sustainable in a court of law come forward and prove it before all and sundry.