Former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s bid to retain control of her Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) party in the face of a spirited campaign to dislodge her by former Zanu PF heavyweights received a major boost yesterday when war veterans threw their weight behind her leadership.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Mujuru already enjoyed the backing of nine of the party’s 10 provincial structures who said they supported her decision to fire former State Security minister Didymus Mutasa, ex-Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, Claudius Makova and Margaret Dongo, a veteran opposition politician and one-time Zanu PF legislator.
The ZimPF leader accuses her former allies of trying to scuttle ongoing talks with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to form a coalition to challenge President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party in next year’s elections.
War veterans are seen as a vital cog in Mujuru’s party as they are responsible for mobilisation and giving the party liberation war credentials that make it attractive to other opposition parties seeking a coalition.
“Indeed, we are fully behind our torch-bearer and brand, the interim president Dr JTR Mujuru and the national leadership for uprooting undesirable and retrogressive elements planted in our midst to cause disharmony in our party for the benefit of our enemy Zanu PF,” a statement by ZimPF’s Interim Freedom Fighters national executive council reads in part.
“These agents of the Zanu PF regime promoted factionalism and established parallel structures intended to cause divisions and destabilise the party in an effort to derail our noble vision to become the next government.”
The Elliot Kasu-led outfit pledged its support of the purge, which it said would rid the party of saboteurs.
“As such, we the freedom fighters do hereby unreservedly declare our total commitment and uncompromised stance in support of our president’s well thought out and calculated pre-emptive strike and associated interventions to clear the elements determined to stall progress, steal the people’s leadership and the party,” the statement added.
The war veterans also encouraged Mujuru to continue with her efforts to mobilise a coalition of opposition parties to challenge Mugabe. Mujuru also received the backing of women’s league with interim chairperson Marian Chombo saying they would now work hard to strengthen the party.
“We have programmes that we are rolling out to ensure the women’s wing reclaims ownership of its programmes,” she said.
“We are creating platforms for different women to organise themselves in their wards, identify particular programmes that they want to champion.”
“We will work hard to get sponsorship and resources for our own political programnes as women.
We will reach out to other women in business, civil society, politics, religion, sport and all sectors in order to tap from their skills and experiences.”
Meanwhile, Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust director Ibbo Mandaza said Mujuru appeared to be enjoying an upper hand in the tug of war.
“The group that has the majority of the support will emerge stronger,” he said.
“It will appear that Mujuru has more support from the 10 provincial chairpersons and if that is the case then clearly she is head stark and might be able to consolidate that position.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said all was not lost for ZimPF even though it would emerge weaker from the infighting.
“It is premature to answer the question in a clear-cut way but both might still have political life. The party is clearly disintegrating. It is decomposing though it can be resuscitated,” he said.
He said ZimPFwas sharply divided along two ideologies with the faction led by the so-called elders being nostalgic about the old “good” Zanu PF ways while those sympathetic to Mujuru appeared to be inclined towards the opposition MDC-T.
Political analyst, Lloyd Sachikonye agreed that the split was not healthy for the party.
“In most cases when we have a split in a party it tends to weaken it. It is very rare that a split will strengthen the party,” he said.
“In this particular case what is likely going to happen is that the party will be weakened.”
Pedzisayi Ruhanya said none of the factions would emerge stronger from the crisis because ZimPF was yet to have elected office bearers.
“The two groups have not yet consummated themselves into a political party by congress where they are given the power by the people,” he said.
“Democracy is government for the people by the people and so the element of the people lack in both groups.
“None of both groups were elected by their membership people, they elected each other and this should be denounced in a democratic environment,” he said.
“Leadership derives its power from the general membership or from the will of the people who make up that political party so that group before it split was yet to go through a democratic internal electoral process so it is difficult to know which group is stronger or weaker in the absence of a properly constituted congress.”
Ruhanya added: “The honest truth is that none of the two groups is stronger because how do we measure the strength of the group outside congress where we see members coming together to elect leadership. Both groups lack legitimacy.”
Mujuru revealed in an exclusive interview with The Standard last month that she was close to clinching a coalition deal with Tsvangirai.