HARARE – Former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s fledgling Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party is unravelling spectacularly, amid pitiful suggestions yesterday that the newest kid on the political block could suffer a disappointing stillbirth ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
In an unexpected bombshell that showcased how the People First project has flattered to deceive, Mujuru announced early in the day that she had expelled the founding elders of the party Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa, together with five other party heavyweights.
And before the dust had settled down on this staggering development, the elders held their own press conference later in the day where they also announced Mujuru’s summary expulsion from the party — amid derisive remarks by ZPF detractors that the outfit should now be called People Fired, instead of People First.
Analysts who spoke to the Daily News last night said the chaotic events were a boon to President Robert Mugabe and his deeply-divided Zanu PF ahead of the watershed 2018 polls in which Mujuru has thus far been touted to play a significant part of a coalition alliance led by dogged opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
They also said ZPF’s ructions had left the future of the mooted grand opposition coalition hanging in the balance, as Mujuru was now likely to find it difficult to gain the confidence of her opposition peers and supporters who had, in any case, had reservations about her suitability to partner Tsvangirai and in the planned electoral pact.
Speaking at her hastily-arranged media briefing in Harare yesterday morning, Mujuru announced the expulsions of party stalwarts Gumbo and Mutasa — who are the founders of ZPF — on account of them being alleged Zanu PF agents and working to topple her from her interim position.
“Having done extensive consultation within the rank and file of the party and also in my capacity as the president with the executive authority to ensure its wellbeing, I hereby announce the expulsion of the following members from Zimbabwe People First with immediate effect: Rugare Gumbo, Didymus Mutasa, Margaret Dongo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Luckson Kandemiri, Munacho Mutezo and Claudious Makova.
“We assure Zimbabweans that more heads are going to roll in this revolutionary exercise. We remain committed to the democratisation of Zimbabwe. We remain committed to a coalition of progressive forces to fight and remove Zanu PF from office,” she said.
“As a party, we have decided to take stern measures against elements determined to stall progress that the party has been making. As a result, we have decided to eject some of the colleagues and comrades we thought would stand with the people’s cause, but have chosen to be agents of the regime.
“All sorts of tricks ranging from a coup d’état and sophisticated infiltration have taken centre stage with a view to delaying the people’s cause of unequivocal liberation.
“We are aware of the desperate efforts by the Zanu PF regime to ensure that Zimbabwe People First fails on its mandate to be the next government. Without equivocation, it is on public record that Mugabe has boasted that there shall be ZPF one, two and so-on,” Mujuru added.
But no sooner had she completed her briefing than the situation turned into a complete farce, when Mutasa and Gumbo announced at their own press briefing that they had similarly expelled Mujuru.
Gumbo said Mujuru had “revealed to all and sundry” that she was incapable of leading an opposition party, and was therefore not fit to hold such an office.
“She has declared war on us and the die has been cast. We don’t think that she is the right person to lead us. We no longer recognise her as the leader of People First,” Gumbo said at the packed media event which was also attended by the supposedly expelled other members.
Weighing in, Mutasa said even though the elders were still to settle for her successor, one thing they were sure about was that they were “tired” of her style of leadership.
“We are not surprised by her irrational and emotional decision purporting to expel us. In fact, at the time she held her press conference, we were waiting for her at the party offices as she had told us that we should wait for her since she was at the trauma centre.
“She has no right to expel us. Mujuru was in fact appointed by us the founders of the party to lead the party as the interim president,” Mutasa thundered in remarks that don’t bode well for the still-to-properly-take-off party.
“An intelligent Mujuru would not have expelled VaGumbo and Mutasa. She has not got even a modicum of intelligence,” Mutasa added mockingly.
Bhasikiti said under the party’s draft constitution, Mujuru had no powers to expel any party member from the party.
“I am not surprised (by the ugly turn of events) because recently I told her that we were losing confidence in her because she was doing things the Mugabe way,” he said.
The elders also said the fallout in the party had begun when they moved to recall ZPF interim national co-ordinator Dzikamai Mavhaire from his post. Sharp divisions had also emerged over whether the party should have two vice presidents or one.
They said while Mujuru wanted two vice presidents, they wanted one. They also alleged that Mujuru had been captured by “fugitives from the law, crooks, relatives and cronies” who were feeding her with wrong information.
Amid the chaos, Mujuru has been working behind the scenes with Tsvangirai and other smaller opposition parties towards the formation of a grand coalition.
Analysts have also consistently said a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule — especially at this time when the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail nonagenarian is battling to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
This week Tsvangirai said Mujuru had proved to be a significant opposition player — and that the two would work together with others to dethrone Mugabe and Zanu PF from power next year.
However, analysts told the Daily News yesterday that ZPF’s deadly infighting was likely to drag on for a long time, which would get in the way of the mooted opposition alliance.
“The split of the nascent political project further weakens it and its stature and resultantly, its bargaining power with other opposition forces.
“This is especially so if other constituencies considered to be supportive of Mujuru, like former liberation fighters, put their weight behind the seven expelled leaders,” political analyst, McDonald Lewanika, said.
“The allegations by Mujuru against the elders of Zanu PF infiltration are a hard sell . . . and potential partners may now be hesitant to be associated with a party that is vision-less, is in turmoil and displays undemocratic tendencies.
“In the final analysis, perceptions of fissures in the opposition do not bode well for building confidence among the masses around the possibility of the opposition uniting.
“The perceptions of disorder and the allegations of poor leadership on Mujuru’s part also play nicely into Zanu PF’s hands, and which hands cannot be totally absolved from having played a part in this drama,” Lewanika added.
Mujuru was expelled from Zanu PF together with Gumbo and Mutasa in the run-up to the ruling party’s sham “elective congress” in December 2014, on untested allegations of plotting to assassinate and topple Mugabe from power.