HARARE – Ever since she was pushed out of Zanu PF in 2014, former vice president Joice Mujuru has struggled to set her political career on an upward trajectory.
Upon exiting the ruling party, she found herself at the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) as the party’s interim leader. It was, however, not long before relations soured at ZimPF, leading to her formation of the National People’s Party, which is still in its formative stages. Our reporter, Fungi Kwaramba, sat down with Mujuru to discuss these and other issues.
Q: It’s been two years since you left government, how is life outside Zanu PF and government?
A: It is different; it’s never the same. When you are part of the ruling fraternity, most of your programmes (official and private) are taken care of by government; you just use the same resources (to implement them); it’s like killing two birds with one stone.
I am enjoying some new things now such as finding new friends, and doing new things. I enjoy working with the people, hence I now have time to spend with ordinary people. I am now exposed to things that my eye missed while I was in government, now that I have an eagle view of what is going on in Zimbabwe. I could have missed all these things had I remained in government.
Q: What do you miss in government?
A: I miss my friends, yes. You miss some moments, which you used to enjoy when you were with some of these people.
Q: You have been meeting people on your tours to such places as Beitbridge; how has that experience impacted on your life as a politician?
A: These visits are bringing emotions. In Beitbridge, I had the opportunity to meet with a family which lost a brother, and a father who was a musician during Gukurahundi. His family is not getting any royalties from his music. Meeting them was like reliving Gukurahundi. The emotions that come with losing loved ones keep coming back. In my case, having launched a party that seeks to address these issues, I hope to bring closure to such issues (once elected to form the next government).
I became very emotional. I started asking myself if I will be able to satisfy the expectations of these people? I asked myself if I could solve these problems as a political leader because we are tired of these needless fights, and we need to bring our people together.
Q: How do you propose to bring about reconciliation and building bridges between victims and perpetrators?
A: We want to come up with a Peace, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and be the first to come up with a model to deal with this issue without causing more harm to the affected families. On my part, we are looking up to the elderly with a lot of wisdom and a lot of pastoral background (to lead this initiative). We do want people who are easily excitable as we confront this issue.
Q: How are you going to deal with the fear factor that runs deep in Zimbabwe after years of political violence and extra-judicial killings?
A: You have to go to the affected places again and again and preach your message. You must stick your head out and be with the people, including those who have lost their land to the political elite.
Q: What is your policy on land; and as the policy relates to several government officials with multiple farms?
A: The reason we took up arms was to regain our land for which we lost many people and we must not forget that. What we are now fighting for is to bring the train back on the rails and provide bread and butter to our people.
People must enjoy their freedoms, because that is what we sacrificed a lot for. It’s unfortunate that when war veterans seek answers to some questions, the police are unleashed on them; dogs are unleashed on them, and they are no longer able to discuss anything with Mugabe whom we know would not be in that position without war veterans.
Q: Are you still bitter with the way you were treated by Zanu PF?
A: I still ask; why did you (Robert Mugabe) do what you did to Mujuru? He would not have been in this mess, if I had remained in Zanu PF. It did not only hurt me, but many others who looked up to me as their leader. The way it was handled was wrong. He should have just called me and asked me to retire after having served 10 years as his deputy. I would have listened to him because of who I am.
I am feeling sorry for those in Zanu PF. (Emmerson) Mnangagwa celebrated (my dismissal) because it benefited him but how does he feel now that he is being mistreated just as I was being ill-treated? Why are they punishing this gentleman? Why do you have to drag him into all this mess? If Mugabe does not want Mnangagwa, why doesn’t he just fire him?
He has suffered a lot and we should not celebrate when we see a fellow human being suffering because we are all humans.
Q: What is the role of the army in Zimbabwe’s politics?
A: There are people who forget about who we are. What is happening in Zanu PF is their own making! I have very little time to discuss these people.
What concerns me is the welfare of people in places such as Chitungwiza. There is really nothing to write home about what is happening in Zimbabwe.
Even those of us in the fragmented opposition parties, we should be talking about bread and butter issues and not positions.
Q: What about statements attributed to Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, general Constantino Chiwenga regarding critics of Command Agriculture? Should the army have a say in politics?
A: While securocrats must remain in their barracks, Chiwenga is a political soldier; he grew up in the liberation struggle, and his role was that of political commissar and that is what he is doing even now. What we are looking for right now is a soldier who will not take sides; a soldier who is above party politics. And when such things arise, the army should take the middle road.
Q: Regarding the grand coalition, is there progress made?
A: We have done so much in building the coalition but everything goes with trust; don’t forget that a lot of these opposition parties are mutations of the MDC so trust is a major issue, and to try and get them back is not going to be easy even though our objectives are the same. Our people are not interested with positions, (they simply want change).
Q: Do you believe in a multilateral coalition or just one involving the MDC and your party?
A: Our co-values are equity and inclusivity.
Q: Are you not afraid of being infiltrated if you take on board many parties?
A: Even bigger parties have been infiltrated. The question is; why is the State setting spies on us? We are not trying to shed blood! What we are seeking to achieve is provided for in the Constitution.
We are grouping in a good way, getting to understand each other. And where we are failing to understand each other, we are trying to minimise the differences. If we had not ironed out our pre-independence differences, we would not have had the independence that we are enjoying today.
Three months were spent at Lancaster, negotiating our independence and we are seeking to do the same with our negotiations for a grand coalition. We may get to a stage where we may bring in a mediator to help us break the deadlock if we fail to iron out some of the things because we want the coalition as soon as possible.
Q: You seem to be running out of time. Do you have a time-frame for the completion of the negotiations?
A:…laughs. Next question please.
Q: Do you want to lead the coalition?
A: People should ask; what type of a leader do we want; do we want a leader or a ruler… with such a diverse background, let us be genuine (in our negotiations).You cannot just say I am Mai Mujuru and I should lead, no. You should know what is expected of a leader.
Q: People are leaving your party en masse; it seems the centre can no longer hold even before you hold your national convention.
A: If a person leave our party, it’s fine. People are free to belong to a political party of their choice. We are already choosing our leadership through mini-conventions in provinces. We have done a unique thing by holding conventions in provinces because we are a people’s party and we are doing what people want us to do.
Q: Do you think that Zimbabwe is ready for a female president?
A: As women, we have always been ready to lead and we have outperformed men in different fields. I don’t understand why some say women are not ready when we have performed well in the past. When the war was being fought, women were there, and now the war is over and you are now saying women are not ready, really.
Q: They are allegations that you are working with Morgan Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, to topple him. Is that correct?
A: I have my own party, Tsvangirai has his. What we agreed to do is to make sure that all women vote. We are trying to ensure that women who have not been voting before do so. It has nothing to do with what is being alleged.
Q: The late Dick Chingaira was denied hero status because of alleged connections with you. Were you linked?
A: First of all, I had not seen Chinx for over three years, but before that we were in touch. When I was still in government, I was approached by (Joseph) Nyadzayo, the photographer in the President’s Office, pleading that he had this project which he wanted to fulfil through the Zimbabwe Music Association (Zima). It really touched me as a mother because I saw Chinx’s house being destroyed by government (during operation Murambatsvina).
So I committed to helping him in a small way. Is that a sin? For your own information, Chinx is my son-in-law and even Nyadzawo did not know it. He will hear it from you. As human beings, we forget quickly. It is not just Chinx who was ignored.
We have Anderson Mhuru, a member of the High Command, who is buried in Chinhoyi. We have Sheba Tavagwisa, a female member of the High Command who is buried in Gutu. We have Mhaka, and many others (who were ignored).
As war veterans, we have been used and now they have dumped us. Who in the current politburo is qualified to talk about war veterans? This hero status thing is about who knows you. Who knows Chinx in that politburo; only maybe (Sydney) Sekeramayi and Mnangagwa?