ZIMBABWE – The emergence of former vice president Joice Mujuru on the political scene has created new dynamics that might change the face of opposition politics in Zimbabwe.
But there is a trillion-dollar question: Is she likely to make a ripple or it’s just more of the same?
Mujuru, fired from government and the ruling party late last year, has been flirting with the idea of coming back into mainstream politics amid reports of disgruntled former Zanu-PF stalwarts sacked from the party for allegedly plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe forming a coalition.
Recently, she launched her economic blueprint, which also resembles a manifesto, confirming her presidential aspirations.
But does she have the gunpowder to propel her to power by effectively marshalling Zimbabweans to her side?
Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said although Mujuru enjoyed significant support from ordinary Zanu-PF members, the road to the country’s top job would not be easy for her.
The scale of the dismissals witnessed in Zanu-PF over alleged links to Mujuru demonstrate her support in the ruling party prior to its December 2014 congress.
So far, 153 senior Zanu-PF party officials have either been expelled or suspended from the party on account of sympathising with her.
The worst case was in Masvingo Province where 35 out of 40, representing 87,5 percent of Provincial Executive Committee members, were suspended for their alleged links to Mujuru.
What is, however, not clear is whether she still has loyalists who survived the chop.
The fact that the sackings have continued to this day, is however, indicative of the influence she commanded in Zanu-PF.
Masunungure postulates that Mujuru will have a big fight on her hands.
“She wants now to regenerate her political career, but she needs first to disown many skeletons in the Zanu-PF cupboard. Let’s not assume that it will be plain sailing for her. She will be subject to the usual restrictions and repression as has (happened) against those who oppose Zanu-PF,” he said.
There has been talk about a potential coalition between Mujuru and opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to face President Mugabe in the 2018 elections.
Such a coalition has been met with mixed feelings, with some welcoming it as the only viable prospect to unseat Zanu-PF from power, while others believe that such a coalition could undermine Tsvangirai because of Mujuru’s past association with the governing party.
Those of the latter view argue that should the need for a coalition become imperative, Mujuru should play second fiddle to Tsvangirai, who has been tried and tested in opposition politics.
Former Hurungwe West legislator, Temba Mliswa, who was also dismissed from the ruling party for allegedly supporting Mujuru, has apparently said Mujuru should back Tsvangirai in any prospective coalition.
“It’s one thing to produce a blueprint and quite another to gather thousands of people as you (Tsvangirai) have done here. Let’s leave documents and join those who have the experience of being assaulted in an election,” Mliswa told a rally at Nharira Business Centre near Chivhu commemorating the MDC-T’s 16 years of existence.
“Everyone should bring something to the coalition and, as they come, they should know that you are the president of the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe. They should not come wearing Zanu-PF hats because they are no longer with Zanu-PF,” he said.
Analyst, Vince Musewe, who is aligned to Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, said a Mujuru-Tsvangirai coalition was worth trying because of the constant disintegration of opposition parties in the country which he said would only strengthen Zanu-PF.
“There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. A coalition is imperative since we must fight this dictatorship from all fronts with everything we have. Splitting our efforts strengthens the dictatorship,” said Musewe.
“In my opinion, we must ensure numbers through Tsvangirai and transition of power in the event of a win through Mujuru who remains influential in the security sector. We must not allow the past to shape our future; that is the trap we have fallen into over the last 35 years,” he said.
Musewe said the issue of a coalition was indeed likely to create headaches because of Zimbabwe’s peculiar situation.
“In other countries, coalitions are established after election results because they have proportional representation so it’s easy. In our case, we need the coalition before elections which makes it a very subjective and manipulative exercise. That’s our problem. But one hopes sense prevails,” Musewe said.
Tsvangirai and Mujuru’s lieutenants have reportedly been holding informal negotiations to unite ahead of the 2018 elections, although the two politicians have not yet met.
“Any coalition must go beyond just winning elections to clinching the pillars of support that have kept Zanu-PF in power . . . the Mujuru/Tsvangirai (coalition) has potential but far more work must be done beyond winning elections,” said political commentator, Rashweat Mukundu.
Kent University law lecturer and former close aide to Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa, pointed out that Mujuru could not afford to ignore Tsvangirai if she harboured any thoughts of political success.
“It is important for Mujuru’s team to avoid getting ahead of themselves. The truth is that at the moment, they are an unknown quantity. Their so-called support is based on nothing but mere conjecture. The idea that Mujuru has nationwide support has barely been tested,” said Magaisa.
Jealousy Mawarire, who is already part of the team spearheading Mujuru’s political project, said the projection that Mujuru does not have people lacks clarity on where the numbers are supposed to come from and why they are not there, if, in fact, she doesn’t have them.
“More interestingly, no one cares to explain to us why so many people have been purged from Zanu-PF structures on allegations of supporting Mujuru when (President) Mugabe’s propagandists claim she has no following,” said Mawarire.
“The contentious point will be about who gets what power and unless both leaders are ready to serve Zimbabwe, then that could be the breaking point. They will need to first acknowledge what each party brings to the table and agree on some sort of power sharing formula.”