Former vice president Joice Mujuru is slowly building her profile as an opposition leader after she was unceremoniously kicked out of Zanu PF over allegations that she was involved in a plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.
Mujuru (JM), now the leader of the National People’s Party (NPP) is involved in delicate talks with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in an effort to stitch up a coalition to challenge her former mentor in next year’s elections.
The NPP leader last week spoke to our reporter Blessed Mhlanga (BM) about the talks and life outside Zanu PF.
She also told him why she would never remarry and how she misses her late husband retired General Solomon Mujuru who died in a mysterious fire in 2011. Below are excerpts of the interview.
BM: Has there been any progress in the negotiations to form an opposition coalition since the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai some weeks ago?
JM: Progress has been made. What is left is for negotiators to do the finishing touches so that the principals can then receive the report after they have dealt with the grey areas.
So to say the coalition is failing, or not properly managed, is wrong.
We have our own approach to the coalition. Mind you, these are people coming from different backgrounds.
We are coming from the war background and they are trade unionists, so there are certain things that we have to be clear about, just like them.
It’s not something that you can meet about today and in the next week you are agreed. It also involves building trust among ourselves and that takes time.
BM: Are you still confident that the coalition will be in place in time for you to mount a meaningful challenge against Mugabe in next year’s elections?
JM: Yes, we are already campaigning. we are not relaxing. We are killing several birds with one stone. we are not waiting for the coalition agreement and grandstanding.
BM: You said there are issues that you are ironing out in the coalition talks. What are some of the challenges that you are facing?
JM: One of them is an agreement on the number of seats each party should have and also, the issue of how representatives, MPs and councillors should be chosen. Should we appoint them or leave that to people to make choices?
Something like that can’t be solved by negotiators alone. We have to do this as a team, sitting together to discuss some of these things.
BM: You have publicly stated your desire to lead the coalition. Was the announcement not premature considering the sensitive nature of the talks?
JM: I am not the only one who has said that. Tsvangirai has also said it in public. Who doesn’t like [to lead]?
Yes, I can say I want [to lead] but some of these things have to come from the people.
Yes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, but this one, if people say Mai Mujuru lead, why should I say no?
BM: Would you accept to be in a coalition that does not have you as the leader?
JM: Let’s not concentrate on those [issues]; those are very simple things. Let’s concentrate on the wishes of the people because a coalition is there and it’s for real.
We want it for the people of Zimbabwe. [We should] consider what this country has gone through in our choice of the best person [to lead the coalition].
BM: That question has to be answered, eventually.
JM: But can we spend time asking who will lead the coalition when we know there are other issues that might also then lead us to getting that person who will lead the coalition?
These are the things that we are working on.
BM: There were reports that you don’t like Welshman Ncube. What differences do you have with Ncube?
JM: That’s not true. I have never shouted at or said anything bad about Mr Ncube and to me, he is a human being, he has been a minister in a government where I was vice-president and I was working together with him very well.
Besides, when we discussed this Mou, it wasn’t a tripartite, it was bilateral.
You know one thing that people would want to hear is that people are fighting; people hate each other. I am not that character and I don’t waste my time attacking others.
BM: What have you learnt in your short stint as an opposition politician, something that you were not able to grasp as a Zanu PF member?
JM: Even when I was in that party, I was open-minded. I am a free person, conversing with a lot of people, traversing the length and breadth of this country. I have not seen any difference except that I am no longer Zanu PF.
BM: What is your reaction to assertions that the women electoral platform that you are spearheading with the likes of Thokozani Khupe is meant to undermine Tsvangirai?
JM: In fact, it is actually meant to promote opposition political parties to educate women in the country to be serious voters, to understand what it is we stand to gain from elections.
We are saying let’s talk to them, let’s show them the importance of voting, let’s remove fear which is being instilled in them. This is why we chose to do it.
BM: How is your relationship with Tsvangirai?
JM: Morgan Tsvangirai is head of MDC-T and I am head of NPP, so we are two presidents of opposition parties that are trying to work together in order to win elections in 2018.
BM: You say you were not aware of some of Mugabe’s excesses during your time in government. How is that possible?
JM: Why would I want to spy on you and why would you want to be spied on?
BM: Did the excesses not bother you?
JM: Mugabe was an executive president, that’s the difference between an executive and non-executive person and I could not poke my nose into everything he did.
It is not every time that I was with Mugabe. There were just a few times when I was with Mugabe and I didn’t know everything he did as an executive president.
And sometimes [I couldn’t] question because he has executive powers. You have an editor at your workplace, do you question his every decision?
BM: Are you saying the executive powers are wrong?
JM: I am not saying they are not necessary, but when they are abused it’s not right because one takes the country for a ride.
BM: Would you consider marrying again?
JM: I loved my husband. He was the father of my children. I miss him a lot, that’s why I said I would want to remain with the picture of a man I loved.
I will not marry again. I don’t need a boyfriend. I enjoy working for the people of Zimbabwe.
BM: Do you think Zimbabweans have forgiven you now for the role you played in Mugabe’s government where you served for over 30 years?
JM: Why wouldn’t they if they forgave [Ian] Smith? Why wouldn’t they? I never commandeered a helicopter. I never commandeered a plane to go and kill people, so why wouldn’t they forgive me?
BM: The chaos in Zanu PF factions; do you think Mugabe is worried?
JM: No, he is not worried. That’s him, he thrives on that kind of situation. He is happy. That is him. That is how he lives and he is not worried at all.