FORMER vice-president and leader of the People First group, Joice Mujuru — who dominated mainstream media headlines and trended on the social media this week — is pulling out all the stops to launch her new political party before the end of the year to provide a springboard for her to challenge either President Robert Mugabe or Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the crucial 2018 elections.\r\nOwen Gagare/Elias Mambo\r\n This comes as speculation gathers momentum within the corridors of power Mugabe might leave before his current five-year term expires to allow Mnangagwa to finish his tenure, while he prepares to be the Zanu PF candidate during the crucial 2018 elections.\r\n\r\nThe other major candidate would be MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai unless he and Mujuru, as well as leaders of other opposition parties, form a coalition — the best and biggest hope for change — to challenge the infirm Mugabe or the untested Mnangagwa.\r\n\r\nThis comes as information gathered this week shows Mujuru and her close allies such as ousted former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, ex-secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (former politburo member and Mwenezi East MP), David Butau (former Mbire MP) and ex-war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda are putting up structures at national, provincial and other lower levels before the launch of the party. Mujuru’s taskforce comprising Gumbo, Mutasa, Butau, Bhasikiti and Sibanda has been going around the country setting up structures, mobilising support and laying the ground for their party’s launch.\r\n\r\nMujuru is working closely with this team, although she also has a group of technocrats who wrote Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (Build) released this week. Zanu PF and its media hacks reacted to Build with panic and a degree of hysteria, unsure of what to say as Mujuru sought to occupy the middle ground of local politics by embracing an inclusive and structured land reform process, refined indigenisation,commitment to human and property rights and the rule of law, among other progressive issues.\r\n\r\nThe MDC-T and other parties also have similar values but Mujuru brings something new on the table which opposition parties in general have been lacking: liberation struggle credentials and ability to relate to forces within and outside Zanu PF with ease. That approach helped to end one-party states and long rule by former liberation movements in Zambia, Malawi and Kenya.\r\n\r\nOpposition parties in Zimbabwe seem to have been given a God-send — Mujuru — by Mugabe who expelled her from Zanu PF in April following an acrimonious succession battle and a controversial congress in December last year. Zimbabwe could follow the Zambian, Malawian and Kenyan paths of securing change from entrenched authoritarian regimes on that approach. The Zimbabwe Independent understands Mujuru has assembled a team of economists and technocrats to assist her come up with sound policies. It is said former finance minister Simba Makoni is helping out and could join her party.\r\n\r\nMujuru, officials said, was also reaching out to her late husband retired army commander Solomon Mujuru, who died in a mysterious fire at his farmhouse in 2011, friend ex-Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa. She is also reportedly engaging Tsvangirai, who is former prime minister, for what could turn out to be a game-changing coalition, especially if Mugabe would not be a candidate. Mutasa and Gumbo have reportedly told senior officials they do not want positions in the People First project, citing old age, but would work hard to help Mujuru out.\r\n\r\nAhead of the launch of the party, set for the capital Harare, Mujuru has been crisscrossing the region to establish and reestablish contacts with former liberation movements and build a network of allies to secure regional support. In April this year she is said to have travelled to Mozambique where she met current and retired Frelimo leaders. She has also been to Tanzania to meet Chama Cha Mapinduzi leaders.\r\n\r\nThis week she travelled to South Africa with close associates to meet senior African National Congress officials as well as former Mozambique and South Africa first lady, Graca Machel, according to sources close to her. Mujuru is also planning to travel to other countries in the region to canvass for support and to explain why she is forming a new party to challenge Mugabe and Zanu PF. Officials said she was further planning to travel to Namibia, Angola, Botswana and Zambia, among other countries. A Mujuru ally said some senior ANC officials in South Africa are keen to help her as they are peeved by Zanu PF’s support of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters.\r\n\r\nGumbo confirmed Mujuru’s diplomatic offensive in an interview on Friday, saying the former vice-president has been “well received so far”. “Following the purges soon after their socalled congress in Zanu PF, some former liberation movements lost faith in Zanu PF and its leadership. They only respect Mugabe for different reasons, nothing more,” Gumbo said. “Our liberation sister movements do not understand how Mugabe could hound out his deputy and half the party on the basis of false allegations and lies. But the good thing is in the region we also have friends who appreciate what we are doing, and we have been consulting them.”\r\nGumbo said the People First project would be viable because it has support. “We have travelled all over the country and the people on the ground are ready to embrace change that is coming,” he said. Gumbo also said People First was also establishing diaspora structures in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa.\r\n\r\n“Zimbabweans are all over and we are reaching out to them. They should be given their chance to vote, that is the reason we are forming structures in the diaspora,” he said. Officials say Mujuru would rely on her allies who were suspended or expelled from Zanu PF to form her party and mobilise for support.\r\n\r\nIn her Mashonaland Central home province, Mujuru is working with the likes of Butau, former Zanu PF provincial chairperson Luke Mushore, Sydney Chidamba and Dougmore Chimukoko. She has other heavyweight allies like former Zanu PF politburo member Nicholas Goche and some who are still hibernating in the ruling party.\r\n\r\nIn Mashonaland West, she has the support of officials such as Sylvester Nguni, Themba Mliswa, Kindness Paradza, Joshua Chakona, Jackson Chizanga, Dominic Muza, Mernard Waneke, Talent Muduuri, Adrian Musiwa and Steven Karenga, among others.\r\n\r\nAmong those being counted as allies in Mashonaland East are Olivia Muchena, Felix Mhona, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa and Tendai Makunde, as well as Ray Kaukonde. She also has strong support in Masvingo with officials like Bhasikiti, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Killian Gwanetsa, Claudius Makova, Chiratidzo Mabuwa and Trynos Huruva, among others. In the Midlands she has Gumbo, Flora Bhuka and Jason Machaya, to name a few.\r\n\r\nIn Manicaland she boasts of Mutasa,John Mvundura, Munacho Mutezo, Basil Nyabadza, Elliot Kasu and James Kaunye, among others. Prominent in Harare are Tendai Savanhu, Jim Kunaka, Miriam Chikukwa, Christopher Chigumba, Munyaradzi Banda, Boniface Karoro and Noah Mangondo.\r\n\r\nIn Bulawayo she enjoys the support of officials like Charles Chiponda, Nicholas Mhlanga, Canaan Ncube, Bertha Moyo, Callistus Ndlovu, Christopher Dube, ElifasiMashabe, Bheki Dube, Calvin Musuta, Noma Mokoena, Methuseli Ndlovu and Quite Moyo, among others.\r\n\r\nMatabeleland South has former officials like Jabulani Phetshu Sibanda, Alma Mukwebo, Ndabayabo Ndlovu, Tafirenyika Seremani, Moffat Sithole, Ollen Ncube, Morris Mhambi, Lungisani Nleya, Malaki Nkomo, Alice Dube and Clara Langa. Besides, Mujuru has support in the country’s civil service — including in Mugabe’s office where her key allies hold sway — and security structures. – The ZimIn\r\nThe post Mujuru lays down the gantlet for 2018 appeared first on The Zimbabwe Mail.