They dismissed suggestions that the veteran of the war of liberation that brought Zimbabwe’s independence from white colonial rule could have been a reluctant participant in the formation of a new party to challenge President Robert Mugabe.
One of the elders of the PF, former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa said Mujuru was very active in the setting up of the political project and was at the forefront, providing leadership and policy direction.
Mutasa told The Standard in an interview last week that contrary to reports that Mujuru had left her lieutenants to do the “dirty work” in the formation of the project, she had been involved in the PF project since her unceremonious expulsion from Zanu PF.
According to Mutasa, Mujuru is “now waiting for the right time” to go public as leader of PF.
Mujuru was kicked out of Zanu PF together with Mutasa (then secretary for administration) and Rugare Gumbo (the spokesperson). Nine provincial chairpersons perceived to be her allies, and scores of other leaders, including over 10 Cabinet ministers were suspended from Zanu PF.
This was after the internecine factional fights to succeed Mugabe reached boiling point.
The group was accused of plotting to violently remove the 91-year-old leader from power with the assistance of Western countries. But they have denied the charges.
“The people of Zimbabwe must know that Mujuru has been leader of People First since she was ousted from Zanu PF. The way she was removed showed the true undemocratic nature of that party. She has been involved from day one and she will not abdicate her responsibility because she is acutely aware of the goodwill that Zimbabweans have for her,” Mutasa said.
Mutasa said Mujuru showed she is serious about her role in the political project by rejecting a life pension offer from Mugabe’s government.
“We were encouraged by Mujuru’s refusal of the State pension, not because we ever doubted her commitment to the People First project, but that was a vote of confidence in the project and the fight to establish a democracy in its truest sense. It was a seal of approval in the work we have put into the project, including her own.
“Mujuru rolled up her sleeves a long time ago. She has been part of the project since she was expelled from Zanu PF. She is our leader and has always provided direction in our meetings,” Mutasa said.
“We were even more gratified that just after rejecting the offer for a pension, she published the manifesto. It warmed our hearts and like I have said, she is a good leader who would never forsake the people for 30 pieces of silver.”
Mutasa’s claims were corroborated by former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda, who is also active in the PF project.
Sibanda said: “She has a responsibility to defend our struggle and is aware of that. Mujuru spends most times in our meetings listening. She has this ability that you do not find in many politicians — that of talking less and listening more.
“Mujuru was a victim of circumstances. She was targeted by counter-revolutionaries, and some of us put our lives on the line because we could not let someone who fought for the liberation of this country be humiliated like that,” Sibanda said.
Former Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairperson Temba Mliswa, who has been the most vocal in calling for action to confront Zanu PF, told The Standard that he was “happy with the progress made so far” by PF.
“She is involved and now we are happy at least that things seem to be moving. They are meeting at their level with the likes of Mutasa, Gumbo and others. They have experience in the workings of the State. I will, however, continue to argue that the things they are doing now could have been done while they were still in the party,” he said.
“They should never have allowed the lies that we wanted to rebel against the President to prevail. Mujuru had the support of most of the party members and you will understand that those who were suspended are more than those who were expelled. So, some of the suspended members have since been assimilated into the factional fights between [Vice-President Emmerson] Mnangagwa and [Zanu PF political commissar Saviour] Kasukuwere.”