EMBATTLED Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader, Joice Mujuru, yesterday suffered yet another setback in her fight to control the opposition party after war veterans rallied behind “expelled” founding members, Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa (pictured), and appeared to endorse them as the bona fide leaders.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Top executives of the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, Victor Matemadanda (secretary-general) and Douglas Mahiya (spokesperson), were part of a ZimPF steering committee meeting called by Gumbo and Mutasa in Harare to announce a new party leadership following their break-up with Mujuru last week.
Addressing journalists at the ZimPF headquarters yesterday, Gumbo said he would, for now, co-lead the party with Mutasa until a substantive president has been selected at an elective convention to be held “in due course”.
“Party elders, founding members and the steering committee will in due course meet to choose an interim president, who will lead the party pending an elective convention,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the steering committee, together with Mutasa and Gumbo, are the caretaker leaders of ZimPF.
“We are going to consult extensively from the members of the steering committee and the founders of the party to find what their opinion is regarding leadership.
“So, we cannot give a definite date, but we are saying, any time after the end of February, we should be able to have an answer.”
Matemadanda said they were attending the meeting in solidarity with their fellow liberation war comrades.
“We didn’t come here as members of People First, but we came here as comrades, who received information that other comrades are meeting here,” he said.
“Our membership and mobilisation will support a candidate, who has respect for our founding principles. We are not here to seek for membership or anything, except that, as comrades, there will be a time when we are going to meet as the veterans of the struggle.
“We will count each other, those who are with us and those that are not with us. We will ask what is meant by getting lost, because we were taught that the majority is the superior to the minority. When the minority remains with the other side (Zanu PF) and the majority is outside, what do you call that?”
Mahiya accused President Robert Mugabe of manipulating war veterans by using them for campaign purposes and dumping them afterwards.
“There is no one who can say I was not used at Shake-Shake (Zanu PF headquarters). We were all used at different levels and doing different things, but we couldn’t realise it,” he said.
“I have never seen an army general, who will go to war and later fire his troops soon after winning the war to accommodate nonentities like (Zanu PF commissar, Saviour) Kasukuwere. This is manipulative.”
Mutsvangwa, Matemadanda, Mahiya and others were fired from Zanu PF last year on allegations of indiscipline after they openly called for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe.
Norton’s independent legislator, Temba Mliswa, also attended the meeting in solidarity with the ZimPF elders.
Mujuru last week announced the expulsion of seven ZimPF founders, accusing them of being Zanu PF agents, but they have remained defiant, saying they could not be fired from a party they founded.
Mliswa described Mujuru as unelectable, while urging people to stop idolising political leaders.
“Mujuru was handpicked to be Vice-President. This is why I always ask you why you believe somebody who was handpicked can win elections,” he said.
“That is the danger of Zanu PF today. Mnangagwa was handpicked and (Vice-President Phelekezela) Mphoko was handpicked, so was Mujuru. So you cannot go and get votes out there without winning internal elections. It’s suicidal to have such a person as a substantive president.”
Margaret Dongo, who was also fired alongside Gumbo and Mutasa, took a swipe at Mujuru’s “dictatorial tendencies”, saying ZimPF structures were behind their group.
Gumbo also raised a litany of allegations against Mujuru, including running the party like a personal business, going on foreign trips without briefing her executive, failure to account for party finances, blatant disregard of the constitution, and backbiting, among others.
He also said it was a lie that they were against a coalition with other opposition political parties.
“There has been a deliberate distortion of the position of elders regarding the coalition of opposition forces,” Gumbo said.
“We want to unambiguously state our position regarding the question of coalition.
“We agree with the coalition of all opposition parties. We are for the unity of our people. Faced with a regime that knows no bounds in its quest to remain in power forever, we cannot and should not accept the luxury of being divided.”
He said Mujuru always shunned advice from the party elders, alleging she started plotting to expel them last year, but was blocked by some members of the national executive council.
“Mujuru always wanted the elders removed because they have the courage to speak out whenever she vacillates or goes astray,” Gumbo said.