By Darlington Nyambiya
As the political winds of change continue to blow across Zimbabwe, even politicians in the ruling party have begun taking a glimpse into the post-Mugabe era.
This side glance by both Zanu PF factions has also hit the reality check that they cannot directly challenge President Mugabe, so their best strategy has been to be in the best of position to take over the levers of power once Mugabe exits the political stage.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s opposition has also realised that as President Mugabe is gradually eased out of power by old age, the 2018 elections might present the best opportunity yet since independence for the opposition to boot Zanu PF out of power.
Recently, it has also dawned on the opposition that it makes shrewd political strategy to collaborate as a united front to challenge Zanu PF for power.
Although Morgan Tsvangirai is clearly the front runner to become the Grand Alliance’s Presidential Candidate owing to the 17 long years he has been in been in opposition trenches, including having a tangible track record of what one would say is an enduring support base, he however lacks the political acumen to capture state power.
It is from that political dimension that Joice Mujuru comes into play as the dark horse of Zimbabwe’s presidential matrix.
Joice ‘Teurai Ropa’ Mujuru was born as Runaida Mugari on April 15, 1955.
Mujuru, 62, has served as vice-president of Zimbabwe from 2004 to 2014. Previously, she has also served as a government minister since independence, from 1980 to 2004.
In addition, Mujuru has also served as vice-president of Zanu PF.
The former vice-president was married to Solomon Mujuru until his death in 2011, and was long considered a potential successor to President Mugabe before she fell victim in 2014 of plotting against Mugabe.
As a result of the accusations against her, Mujuru lost both her posts as vice-president of the party and government.
She was then expelled from the party a few months later.
However, Joice Mujuru has reinvented herself and has become a prominent opposition leader in Zimbabwe’s opposition politics.
She is now leader of the National People’s Party (NPP), which is now deemed the second biggest opposition party after the MDC T, in terms of its robust nationwide party structures and a solid support base in both the rural and urban areas.
Factors against Mujuru’s Claim to Zimbabwe’s Presidency
- Minister since independence
Mujuru served as a Zanu PF government minister from 1980 to 2004. She also served as vice-president from 2004 to 2014. This long service in government has been used by her opponents to depict her as a Zanu PF accomplice in the mismanagement and misrule of the country for the past 37 years.
- Econet Saga
As Minister of Telecommunications, she has often been accused of trying to sabotage Strive Masiyiwa’s effort at establishing his independent cellphone network, Econet.
After many legal fights, Masiyiwa won his licence in December 1997.
This fight with Econet severely tarnished Mujuru’s reputation as she was seen as a person who only supported the politically connected at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Factors Supporting Mujuru’s Claim to Zimbabwe’s Presidency
- Liberation War Credentials
Mujuru has an impeccable record as a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. At eighteen years of age, Mujuru is said to have been the only woman who trained in Lusaka, having decided to join the Rhodesian Bush War only after completing only two years of secondary education.
She is said to have downed a helicopter with a machine gun on February 17, 1974 after standing her ground and refusing to flee.
She took the nom-de-guerre Teurai Ropa (spill blood), and then rose to become one of the first women commanders in Mugabe’s Zanla forces. Her record stands the test of time and is highly regarded by most Zimbabweans.
- Military Support
In 1977, she married Solomon, known then as Rex Nhongo, deputy commander-in-chief of Zanla forces. That same year, she became the youngest member of the Central Committee, a member of the National Executive.
Mujuru has earned the respect of most of the current military commanders as she once worked with them as one of the women Zanla forces commanders during the liberation struggle. She also sits on the shoulders of her husband the late Solomon, thereby cementing her relationship with most commanders in Zimbabwe’s security establishment.
She, therefore, enjoys the support of most of the commanders within Zimbabwe’s security apparatus.
- Vice President
Since her appointment by President Mugabe as vice-president of Zimbabwe on December 6, 2004, Mujuru worked together with her husband to build countrywide structures for her faction. The Mujuru faction within Zanu PF earned credentials for being strongly opposed to Mugabe’s claim to life presidency.
This building of nationwide structures helped cement her reputation as one of the national leaders equal or at par with other leaders like Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mnangagwa. The Mujuru faction’s nationwide structures have aided her metamorphosis from the ruling party to a prominent opposition leader.
- Mashonaland Provinces
Mujuru has always built her political base in Mashonaland Provinces. This saw her become Zanu PF’s House of Assembly Member of Parliament for Mt. Darwin West in the March 2008 harmonised elections.
According to official results, she won the seat by an overwhelming margin, receiving 13,236 votes against 1,792 for Gora Madzudzo, the candidate for MDC party led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mujuru’s popularity in the Mashonaland provinces is likely going to be leveraged by the Grand Alliance to split the Zanu PF vote in the 2018 elections. If Mujuru succeeds in splitting this traditionally Zanu PF vote stronghold, then the Grand Alliance could be assured of victory in the 2018 watershed elections.
- Compensation For the Farm
In a recent visit to London, Mujuru promised compensation to the former owners of her 3,500-acre (14 km2) requisitioned farm, Alamein Farm. This promise resonates with most Zimbabweans who want to see the finalisation of the Land Reform Programme where the new black farmers will be able to fully utilise the land anchored on financial aid from banks and the government.
- National People’s Party
Mujuru’s NPP brings on board: liberation struggle credentials, former ruling party members with inside information, war veterans, nearly half the ruling party’s support base, a modest support base as the second largest opposition party, informers in current government and state institutions, a leader with national appeal in the form of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and robust nationwide structures.
A Mujuru Review
More evidently shown from the above, although Mujuru was in government for 34 years and her reputation probably tainted by her refusal to give Econet a trading licence, she actually stands a better chance of becoming Zimbabwe’s next president than most of the current opposition leaders.
This, however, is subject to a negotiated settlement by the opposition’s Grand Alliance where Mujuru could be nominated as its 2018 presidential candidate on the basis that she would only be a transitional figure while Tsvangirai could be her deputy who would then succeed Mujuru as president in 2023.
And in her corner, Mujuru has an impeccable record as a former guerrilla fighter so Zanu PF and the military cannot challenge on her on that record. On her own, and also standing on the shoulders of her late husband, she has the support of most officials in government and the security sector establishment.
As Vice President, she managed to build her popularity. She also appeals to most Zimbabweans. Mujuru has a strong support base in the three Mashonaland Provinces which will help in splitting the ruling party vote to the advantage of the Grand Alliance in the 2018 elections.
Her agreement to compensate the former owner of her family farm for improvements resonates with most Zimbabweans who want to see the finalisation of the Land Reform Programme where the new black farmers can fully utilise the land anchored on financial aid from banks and the government.
In conclusion; Mujuru, as the Presidential Candidate for the Grand Alliance, with Tsvangirai as the Deputy, would be a game charger in Zimbabwean politics as this would present the opposition with the best opportunity to democratically dislodge Zanu PF from power in the 2018 elections.
This combination of Mujuru and Tsvangirai tag-teaming against a tired and old President Mugabe or, better still, against an unpopular Emmerson Mnangagwa, would ensure the Grand Alliance a victory in the 2018 elections, which would be guaranteed by Sadc and the African Union, if and when transitional mechanism are needed.
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