HARARE – Embattled former Vice President and Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) interim leader Joice Mujuru is contemplating forming a new party after the fledgling political outfit’s founding fathers claimed they owned the troubled party and all its image rights.
ZPF insiders who spoke to the Daily News on Friday said the latest ruckus within the party over its ownership had left Mujuru in an invidious position of either trying to fight the party’s elders for the outfit’s carcass or forming a new party altogether — of which both routes came with significant challenges.
“Mai Mujuru is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and she could very well stand damned either way at the end of the day.
“To use impolite French, she has to decide very quickly, given that 2018 is upon us, whether she can afford to take on what I can describe as the skunks (the party’s elders), who are desperate and are determined to fight her on this, or start a new, unknown party at this late stage,” one of the insiders said.
“Ultimately, my own view is that the only genuinely viable route still open to her is to cut a quick deal with Save (MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai) and take what remains of her followers to him,” the well-placed source added.
At the same time, ZPF’s founding fathers, Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, insisted yesterday that they “owned” the party, and would fight to the bitter end to protect its image rights.
This latest development piles the pressure on Mujuru who is still smarting from her stunning fall-out with the two party stalwarts and dozens of other high-ranking officials, which has caused the implosion of the one-year-old outfit.
The Daily News is also reliably told that when Mujuru held her national executive council meeting on Thursday, which was attended by provincial co-ordinators, excluding the Midlands province, discussions on a possible change of the party’s name were top of the agenda.
“We are aware that they are insisting on calling themselves People First, so the possibility of changing the name was discussed and we may call ourselves Zimbabwe People’s Party (ZPP) because we have always been a people’s party,” a source who attended the Thursday meeting said.
However, Mujuru is insisting — for now at least officially — that she will continue using the name as all her current structures operate under that name.
“We remain People First. We have the people. Even a blind man can see that Mujuru is the real deal, and the decision to expel the group was well informed and it is not a step back but rather we have moved 100 miles forward.
“That alone clearly shows that we are a serious party,” Mujuru’s spokesperson, Gift Nyandoro, told the Daily News yesterday.
But Gumbo confirmed that the elders would “retain all the party’s image rights”, including the use of the name ZPF, saying the onus was on Mujuru to form her own party, following her “expulsion” from the movement.
“Joice left ZPF. She now has her own party which she runs from her bedroom. People did not resign from ZPF, but from her faction,” the forthright Gumbo said sarcastically.
Since Mujuru announced that she had fired the elders and other senior party officials, she has been holding meetings at her Harare residence, while Gumbo and Mutasa have been operating from ZPF’s offices.
In an unexpected bombshell that shook both the opposition movement and ordinary Zimbabweans alike, Mujuru on Wednesday morning announced she had expelled Gumbo and Mutasa, together with five other party heavyweights — 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,” she said.
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 conference that they had similarly expelled Mujuru from ZPF.
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 other supposedly expelled 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.
But Nyandoro told the Daily News yesterday that despite the seeming implosion of ZPF, there was “a sense of renewal and a break from the past” within Mujuru’s camp.
“We feel free. We are going to have rallies around the country to announce the state of the party. Now people feel liberated and we no longer have to explain to people about the role that some people played when they were in Zanu PF.
“We were accused of harbouring criminals and thieves and Amai (Mujuru) took this step in the interests of Zimbabweans. It was the best move and she has no regrets about it,” Nyandoro said.
He also announced that from now onwards, ZPF would no longer take part in by-elections, stressing that the party had no candidate in the forthcoming Mwenezi East mini-poll.
Amid the chaos, Mujuru has been working behind the scenes with Tsvangirai and other smaller opposition parties towards the formation of the planned grand opposition coalition.
Although Tsvangirai was said to be disappointed with the turmoil engulfing ZPF, the former prime minister in the government of national unity has also given Mujuru some oxygen of sorts by re-affirming his commitment to working with her in the mooted grand alliance, which is expected to be in place by the end of this year.
Earlier 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.
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.
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.