ZIMBABWE – HARARE – Former Vice President Joice Mujuru and other liberation struggle stalwarts, who are at odds with President Robert Mugabe’s warring post-congress Zanu PF, say they are not losing sleep over the ominous threats of violence and arrest that are being made against them by senior officials of the ruling party.
The spokesperson of the “original” Zanu PF formation that uses the slogan People First, and that is taking the frail nonagenarian and his ruling party head-on, Rugare Gumbo, said yesterday that Mujuru and her allies had “absolutely nothing” to be afraid of.
To underline the former VP’s confidence, Gumbo added, she was “too busy to think about Mugabe” as she prepared for the imminent formal launch of the People First movement.
“Mai Mujuru is not moved by their cheap talk because she is busy on the ground mobilising our From Page 1
people to see how we can deal with the many problems facing the country. So, we advise them to meet us in 2018.
“We will not focus on their comments because we are too busy for that. They sacked us from their party and what do they expect us to do, smile and clap hands thanking them?
“No. They should just do their thing and leave us alone, or better still, look for ways to address the deep economic problems that the country is facing rather than expend their energy on us,” Gumbo said.
Mujuru set the cat among the pigeons in Mugabe’s warring party a fortnight ago after she dramatically announced her re-entry into formal national politics, while releasing what analysts said then was an “attractive and potent” manifesto for her People First movement.
So well-received was the news that Mugabe and his close aides were also said to be “worried sick” about a possible electoral pact between Mujuru — who is widely respected inside and outside Zanu PF — and the popular opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, as this would complicate the life of the already reeling and seriously-divided ruling party.
Mugabe himself publicly exhibited the strain that this is putting on him this week when he went berserk over the matter while addressing a luncheon to mark the official opening of the third session of the eighth Parliament on Tuesday, bizarrely using the State occasion to claim that he was not afraid of Mujuru as allegedly speculated by the media.
“The media is writing that I am afraid of this person, I am not afraid of Mai Mujuru. She created trouble for herself and now there are some who would want to have her at the top even when she has done nothing to deserve it. If she wants politics, let her do it,” he said.
Amid all this, Zanu PF officials and sympathisers have gone into overdrive on social media, trying desperately to discredit both Mujuru’s manifesto and her political prospects going forward — although public sentiment has been overwhelmingly against them.
At the same time, panicking Zanu PF hardliners have also been threatening through State media that the former VP and her allies could be arrested for various crimes, including corruption.
Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba — who is widely understood to be the hand behind a soporific State media column that trades under the pen name Nathaniel Manheru — also confirmed what is now common knowledge last weekend, that Mujuru’s brutal purging from the post-congress Zanu PF had left the ruling party in disarray.
Manheru also appeared to confirm Zanu PF’s violent disposition when its vice grip hold on power is threatened, as he went on to offer the nation a window into the attitude of Mugabe and Zanu PF towards Mujuru following her stunning and unexpected re-entry into national politics.
“Zanu PF has been uncomfortable with a floating Joice Mujuru, a Mujuru sitting musingly at Rudhara, allowing time to forget and heal, allowing a growing benefit of the doubt. A Mujuru without a distinguishing political name and differentiating colours.
“Such a situation has been very hard for Zanu PF to manage since December last year, justifying endless purges. It enfeebled and enervated structures. This latest move takes matter beyond shades of grey, into a clear-cut universe of black and white.
“There are many things which Zanu PF had put into abeyance, waiting for this moment.
“She has provided a trigger and it can only be fast forward. She is set to be fought on many fronts. Zanu PF is a vicious, unyielding auditor.
“Already, yesterday’s (last week’s Cabinet) appointments suggest a planner (Mugabe) putting his ducks in a row. Read carefully what the appointments do to Midlands and Mashonaland East, and you get a good clue,” the insider Manheru said.
Another State media columnist who goes by the bizarre name of Bishop Lazarus, and is believed to be a prominent Cabinet minister, also issued thin-veiled threats against Mujuru at the weekend, panning the timing of her re-entry into national politics.
“So, so wrong and 2018 is still far away and with Zanu PF you don’t do that.
“You just don’t give Zanu PF time to breathe, especially knowing that they did not give you time to clear the drawers. Look in the mirror Joice! Look hard and tell me your heart is not pounding,” the seemingly sadistic and misnamed columnist wrote.
Some analysts who have spoken to the Daily News have, however, said that it will not be easy for the Zanu PF government to prefer criminal charges against Mujuru, given its palpable divisions, as well as the influence that she still holds both within Zanu PF and the State.
“The purges that characterised the post congress Zanu PF went too far and when that happens to the ruling party, the State is also divided, so who in the State will arrest Mujuru?” academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza asked.
However, University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure warned Mujuru that she should now “budget for worse things than mere banter” from her erstwhile Zanu PF comrades.
“Arrest and harassment, including persecution are unfortunately part of the game in Zimbabwean politics under Zanu PF.
“It will be the height of naivety for Mujuru to expect that Zanu PF will fold its arms and not resort to its traditional brutal methods.
“She should be prepared for the worst because these are some of the occupational hazards for a Zimbabwean politician. It won’t be a walk in the park.
“The violent might of the State will descend heavily on her,” Masunungure said.
Following Mujuru’s launch of her party “manifesto” — the Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development — BUILD last week, Zimbabwe’s 2018 election battle was viewed as starting in earnest.
Mujuru was banished from Zanu PF along with a host of other liberation war stalwarts that include former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, on untested allegations of plotting to oust and kill Mugabe in the run up to the ruling party’s damp squib “elective” congress late last year.