JACOB Ngarivhume saw his star rise on the back of intensified anti-President Robert Mugabe protests that shaped Zimbabwe’s politics in 2016, but he has remained an enigma.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Ngarivhume, the leader of the hitherto little-known Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), was at the forefront of almost all the successful protests that rocked Harare mid-year and as established opposition parties discuss coalitions ahead of the 2018 elections, his name keeps cropping up.
He has become one of the most vocal opposition leaders fighting hard to form a coalition to dislodge Mugabe and Zanu PF after 36 years in power.
Ngarivhume — a statistician — said only a new government could “rescue the country from the jaws of ruinous Zanu PF”, as he pins his hopes on a possible coalition of opposition parties to dislodge the ruling party.
He said even before forming a party in 2014, he had actively been involved in anti-Zanu PF activism for quite some time.
The TZ leader, who was also influential in the formation of the Prayer Network of Zimbabwe, has been arrested numerous times following the formation of his party in 2014.
He said Zimbabwe’s predicament could be attributed to failed leadership, hence the objective of his party was to raise a leadership that could transform Zimbabwe through winning elections and political power.
The party led an anti-bond notes demonstration in July at the height of civil unrest in the country.
“All my life I have been an anti-Zanu PF activist, even from secondary school,”he said.
“I felt that our nation was not governed properly and that continued to grow and develop until I reached university.”
Ngarivhume said he previously worked with MDC-T but was left disappointed by the decision by that party to form an inclusive government with Zanu PF, prompting him to leave the party.
He said his political career started in 1999 when he founded the MDC UZ branch and served as its chairperson while working with people like the late Learnmore Jongwe.
Ngarivhume denied reports by some politicians that he had strong Zanu PF links and was only working to destabilise the opposition.
“That is completely untrue and it is the first time I am hearing that allegation because those who were with me at the University of Zimbabwe know that I was an MDC leader and I actively worked with MDC support structures and the funding structures,”he said.
“I was MDC secretary for information for Harare central, I also worked with MDC youths at one point. I have never worked for Zanu PF or its structures.”
Ngarivhume said he later founded an organisation called Voice of Democracy, which was working to enhance democracy and fight political violence and human rights abuse.
“We formed an organisation called Voice for Democracy whose aim was to fight for justice and democracy,” he said.
“We were very particular about fighting for justice considering what had happened in our country.
“It’s a value and virtue I still hold in my heart and it is very important to achieve justice before we talk of reconciliation.” He said after the 2008 elections, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was not supposed to rescue Mugabe through the Government of National Unity (GNU).
“In 2009 we were very disappointed by the arrangement of the GNU. We felt that Zanu PF had lost the election, Mugabe was in a pit and he was calling for help for people to lift him up and we felt strongly that there was no need at that juncture to extend our hands to lift him from that pit,” he said.
“We felt strongly that there was no need to work with Mugabe at that time.”
Prayer Network Zimbabwe was formed in 2010 as a prayer group focusing on the restoration of Zimbabwe and it also spoke on the need to raise a crop of “clean” political leaders.
In 2013, Ngarivhume said they had a convention of Prayer Network Zimbabwe and Voice for Democracy where they discussed how they could ensure that Zimbabwe was transformed.
At the convention, they discussed how Christians could participate in politics, largely influencing the formation of a political party.
He said his party had structures in eight provinces and they were working on establishing structures in Mashonaland Central and West.
Ngarivhume said although they were a relatively new party, they had done well in the by-elections they contested in.
Turning to coalitions, he expressed hope that opposition parties could find a single candidate to face Mugabe.
However, he expressed disquiet over the tendency by their opponents to see their rivals as“smaller parties.”
“Whenever people are talking and discussing, there is bound to be a big brother mentality and some people might feel more important than others. This is what usually destroys efforts of working together,” he said.
“As TZ, we have been approached by three different groupings and we have never initiated any of those advances. If they [bigger parties] think they don’t need anybody and they are good enough to win elections on their own, it’s their perspective and we respect that.
“If they feel they are stronger by standing alone, please let them win and deliver the country.” Ngarivhume said he had a relationship with other opposition leaders based on mutual respect.
He defended his scathing attack on Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader Joice Mujuru where he alleged that she had blood on her hands because of her previous stint in Mugabe’s government.
He said it was a response to what her party had persistently said about opposition parties that met in South Africa to discuss a possible coalition.
“After that meeting ZimPF started pushing out statements that whoever participated in that meeting was discredited, saying either we don’t have people or we are small parties. That is what I was responding to,”he said.
“The last person who can say that is Mujuru and we know what she has done to the nation.
“That is what I took great exception to. ZimPF cannot take a lead in mudslinging opposition political parties when we know very well that they have taken a lead in destroying this nation.
“They are the most infiltrated party anyway and they look at whoever is growing strong and they start to discredit them.”