Shumba claimed the talks collapsed after Tsvangirai insisted on being leader of the new party, while Mujuru’s emissary former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa wanted the formation to be named Zanu People First.In an interview at the weekend, Shumba said the People First (PF) project was meant to unite all democratic forces in the country, but there was resistance from different quarters, and this led him to form his own party – Zimbabwe First (ZimFirst).
Yesterday PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo refused to be drawn into commenting on the coalition.
“Our position remains very clear. A coalition will come last,” Gumbo said.
“At the moment we are mobilising people. A coalition is not at the top of our agenda; it is not a priority right now. We are busy with the business of creating our party.”
However, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu dismissed the claims by Shumba, describing his statements as “trash”.
Gutu said Shumba had no mandate to speak on behalf of MDC-T, as he had formed his own party.
“As the country’s largest and most popular political party, the MDC-T is always working hard to consolidate its hold on the electorate, as well as to expand its support base,” Gutu said.
“We don’t waste our time commenting on fictitious stories such as the alleged collapse of talks between us and other opposition political parties.”
Shumba claimed he authored the concept Zimbabwe First in June 2014 after being appointed Tsvangirai’s chief political strategist.
“There was unanimous agreement that during the GNU (Government of National Unity) era, opposition leaders had joined the Zanu PF gravy train and had abandoned people’s interests,” he explained.
“Despite my best efforts towards selling this concept to Tsvangirai, it never went anywhere. I was later told he had rejected the concept.”
Shumba said in December 2014, he authored Zimbabwe First National Convergence Concept that he shared with political parties while lobbying for Tsvangirai and Mujuru to be elders of that movement.
“The main objective was to have Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru be the elders who would bring all pro-democratic forces together on one platform. A national taskforce was created, which had members from political parties and the civic society. The slogan for the platform was and still is: Country first, People first, Zimbabwe first,” he said.
The taskforce, he said, had United States-based musician Thomas Mapfumo as the ambassador, Paul Vurayai, a director in Tsvangirai’s office, was deputy co-ordinator, while Gabriel Shumba, who is currently in exile in South Africa after being allegedly kidnapped and tortured by State security agencies in 2003, was the director for legal affairs.
Shumba said his team worked with Mutasa from the Mujuru camp, who proposed forming one big political party called Zanu People First.
“In February this year, Mutasa, acting on behalf of Mai Mujuru and her team of disgraced former Zanu PF leaders, proposed at the behest of that hierarchy that we call our initiative Zanu People First and focus on forming one political party.
“The ZimFirst national convergence platform declined this overture, telling them that ours was a national convergence initiative, not a partisan one,” Shumba said.
“Unfortunately, Mutasa’s team decided to move forward alone with the People First initiative, at first calling it Zanu People First and when they lost the court cases, they dropped the Zanu part and continued to use People First.”
Shumba said efforts to combine the national convergence initiatives hit a brick wall after retired Anglican Bishop Sebastian Bakare, convener of the National Convergence Platform, had told him not to proceed.
“The MDC team under Morgan Tsvangirai was outraged and eventually withdrew from the initiative. This was after I sent them a letter outlining that the Zimbabwe First (ZimFirst) national convergence initiative was non-partisan and everyone would be required to accept the outcome in the event that the platform comes out with a new leader,” he said.
“I then realised that I had to do something to sell the ZimFirst concept to the people, for whom I had initially intended it. I roped in Zimbabwean professionals and captains of industry, who supported the concept. Today the concept has morphed into a vibrant political party with structures in all the country’s provinces.”