Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader Joice Mujuru yesterday piled more pressure on under-siege President Robert Mugabe, telling him to listen to the protesting masses that are sending “a clear and genuine message” to him.
BY Tatenda Chitagu
Zimbabwe was rocked by protests and a successful stay-away that shut the country down last Wednesday. But amid the riots, Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF appear undeterred by the growing discontent.
Addressing about 4 000 party supporters at Mucheke Stadium, the former vice-president said the protests were a sign that the people could not be fooled anymore.
“The riots in Beitbridge were because government did not consult the people before coming up with a policy. You do not start by throwing a policy to the people. There was need to explain to the people. People are now clever. They think and analyse. Let us not lie to people,” Mujuru said.
“How can you limit importation of basic foodstuffs yet some people have extended families and may need more quantities than what you allow in the country. Now they are asking where the industries are that you want to protect.”
She said the government must not spark violence by implementing unpopular policies.
“You cannot blame people for protesting because they will be sending a message. As politicians, let us listen to the people if they say things are bad. When will the cash crisis end? What it exposes is that the country was spending beyond its means,” the ZimPF leader said.
“We know there are a lot of bad things we did to the country [while still in Zanu PF]. And there are some good things we also did. but when people question the bad things, let us not say ‘we did something good’.
“Leaders are selected by people; they don’t just fall into positions. We do not want leaders who impose themselves.”
Retired Colonel Claudius Makova, ZimPF provincial coordinator for Masvingo, also said Mugabe should understand and accept that he was now old.
“Mugabe should accept that he is old, not to hide behind sanctions. No to old people. Who will lend money to a 92-year-old who dozes at meetings and falls while walking? They fear for their money. Who will repay that money?” he said, amid applause.
Makova said Mujuru was the Biblical Joshua who would take the people to Canaan.
“Even in the Bible, Moses rescued the Isralites from Egyptian tyranny, but he was old and could not take the people to Canaan. We now need a Joshua to take us to Canaan, and that Joshua is in the form of Mujuru,” he said.
Mujuru blasted corruption in Zanu PF, saying it was to blame for the death of the economy. She said the ruling party was using land to gain political mileage, yet everyone had a right to land.
She also said Zanu PF rigged elections by using traditional chiefs to intimidate villagers.
“Chiefs are forced to frog-march people to rallies as well as to vote in return for cars and salaries. What is that? That is how Zanu PF rigs elections. Chiefs should not be used by a political organisation. That is the rigging we talked about. Chiefs have their freedom, while people have their freedom of choice,” Mujuru said.
She alleged that some of her supporters could not make it to the rally as owners of their hired buses were intimidated.
The former VP also taunted Zanu PF, saying Mugabe expelled her and other members for alleged factionalism, yet the party was now engulfed by worse infighting.
She lamented the bad state of the Harare-Beitbridge highway, which she said was now a death trap caused by corrupt Zanu PF officials who blocked its dualisation because they were not awarded the lucrative tender.
Mujuru, who was accompanied by senior party members, among them Sylvester Nguni, Margret Dongo, Dzikamai Mavhaire and Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, introduced People’s Democratic Party officials, Tongai Matutu and Arnold Batirai at the rally.
Matutu said his party was in good books with ZimPF and joining hands was “consolidation of democracy”.