After successful Bulawayo and Harare kick off campaign rallies, The Standard news political reporter Everson Mushava caught up with probably the most domineering force against President Mugabe todate, Dr JT Mujuru who under her new political party Zimbabwe People First will be locking horns with her former boss for the country’s top job.
Everson Mushava: After your inaugural rally in Bulawayo and the other one in Harare, are you still convinced that you did the right thing by joining the opposition ranks and challenging a party you grew up in only to be pushed out in 2013?
DR Mujuru: Rally or no rally that did not inform my decision to join opposition politics. A rally only gives us a chance to evaluate whether our message is getting to the people and whether it’s having the effect that we intend it to have on them. My willingness to see things change in this country, my realisation that we were regressing as a country made me make the decision to leave Zanu-PF and try to change things from without. I made the decision to leave Zanu-PF on 1 December 2014 and I have never regretted that decision. It was a decision that thrust me back to the people. You have seen the numbers in Bulawayo and in Harare, I’m not alone, I’m with the people and naturally if you are among the people you are bound to be happy unless you are an introvert.
I am not an introvert, I am firmly rooted in the life that most people live in our country. I blend with people in the rural areas, the urban poor, those in the commercial farming areas, I am at my best when I am with people, I love being with them because I am one of them.
EM: Your critics say your speech at Stanley Square was not very critical of President Robert Mugabe. Do you still find it difficult to criticise someone you once described as your father?
DR JTR: In People First we don’t specialise in criticising people. We criticise policies, institutions, and if those policies are encapsulated in people, if people become policy issues, if they become impediments to policy implementation, we criticise them.
I have made reference to the excesses of the Mugabe administration, I have opposed his policies even when I was in Zanu-PF. That is the reason I left the party, I made that decision on my own, on 1 December 2014 and I personally communicated that to him. The reason was that I was critical of the way he was running the party, the way he allowed his wife who was not an elected official of the party at that time, to savagely attack anyone she disliked. The way things were turning out, I thought it was best to leave and most of the time, actions speak louder than words. If I wasn’t critical of Mugabe would I have been here today, talking to you as President of People First?
You see, if people shout at you, if they act with apparent barbarism, do you also become barbaric and start hurling insults at them? A aah Mwana wangu, (my child) it doesn’t work that way. I am a mother, a grandmother, a mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, a sister, a church mate, a comrade and all such other persona as assigned by society, I have to act with dignity and leave that uncouth behaviour to those without any shred of morality and dignity.
Be that as it may, I will not be restrained from calling a spade a spade. A mother who doesn’t espouse the aspirations of her children is not worth the name. I will rebuke evil, will speak against avarice, against vice, corruption, sin and any form of moral decadence but I will not allow myself to be morally decadent to drive any point home. There is a way of rebuking vice that does not leave you needing to be rebuked as well.
EM: The People’s Democratic Party delivered a solidarity message at the rally; did that mean you are closer to reaching an agreement on a coalition to contest the 2018 elections?
DR JTR: I am glad you called it solidarity message. Does delivering a solidarity message equate to engaging in coalition talks? I have said it many times, In Bulawayo and even in Harare, there are a lot of things that bind us as a people, as Zimbabwean politicians, and these things form the basis of our desire to work together, to unite our people and work for the development of the country.
Coalition or no coalition, we should work together because we are one people. We have a common goal of making our country work again. This we can achieve if we realise the strength in our diversity, if we respect the different qualities and skills we bring on the table. Political coalitions, or whatever name you can call them, can be formed at the right time, what is important now is to find each other, to unify our people and work our way out of the mess Mugabe has plunged us into. It is a task for every Zimbabwean, not only those that come to give solidarity messages at our rallies.
EM: What is your response to assertions that opposition parties can only defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF in the next elections only if they form a coalition?
DR JTR: Those that make the assertion have reasons to support their observation. It could be a way but not a grand narrative. My understanding is that Mugabe will be defeated if anyone can come up with more votes than him. Coalition doesn’t always quantify votes. You might have a coalition and the majority of people vote for Mugabe, that coalition will have lost the vote. What is needed is to mobilise a popular vote against Mugabe and Zanu-PF. If a coalition is what it takes, why not? But there are many things that need to be done and coalition is only one of the many. We have a lot of things that need to be put in place like mechanisms to foil electoral chicanery, mobilising our people to register to vote and providing them with plausible policy issues that give them a drive to vote for us. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, not just talking about coalitions.
EM: Prior to the Bulawayo rally you were criticised for being too quiet on the situation in Zimbabwe to an extent that some ZimPF supporters staged a demonstration outside your house. What is your reaction to such sentiments?
Dr JTR: No Zim PF supporters demonstrated at my house. Demonstrate for what? If they were our supporters, they would never demonstrate because they would have known that their President has an open door policy. I talk to everyone, am available even on social networks, so why would anyone who claims to be Zim PF demonstrate against a President they can interact with on social platforms?
You see, I am not an attention seeker. I don’t just talk because I love to hear the sound of my voice or to make a newspaper headline. I was militarily trained to plan, strategize and execute my plan at the appropriate time. You see, keeping quiet does not mean I am not working, we are not working. It is nonstrategic, and a hallmark of a failed politician to be loud mouthed. I have a work-plan, a strategic work schedule that I follow and I will never be rushed because someone says I have gone quiet. Zim PF is a proactive party, we are not jolted into reacting, we have a clear plan that we follow, that is who we are.
EM: There are allegations that you want to side-line some ZimPF founder members such as Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa, is there any truth in them?
DR JTR: I am glad you used the word allegations. They are just that, unfounded and childish allegations. Zim PF is a party that is recruiting, we need everyone and we welcome everybody. We do not ostracise, side-line or push out anyone. I said we are strong in our numbers and we want the numbers, so how could we push out our core-founding elders? There were speculations to that effect after VaGumbo and VaMutasa failed to attend our Bulawayo rally because they were not feeling well, but did you not see them in Harare? Like I said these are just allegations with no substance.
EM: What do you consider the most important lessons you have learnt since joining the opposition ranks and how will they shape your strategy going forward?
DR JTR: The lessons that we have learnt so far are part of our strategy, we will keep them to ourselves for now.
EM: You were not happy with the outcome of the inquest into the death of your husband General Solomon Mujuru, what have you done as family to find closure?
DR JTR: God knows the truth about what happened and he alone can give us closure. We are praying that one day we will know what really happened. God has his ways and we wait upon him to act.
EM: In a recent interview with the New York Times you indicated that Mugabe and his wife did not seem to be mourning the Mujuru’s death with you (You said Mugabe told you at the mortuary that you will be acting president and he left for Angola while Grace seemed more interested in your house). Why do you think they exhibited such indifference? Do you think the government or someone in a position of authority knows what happened to Gen Mujuru?
DR JTR: Certainly someone should know, do you think no one knows what happened? It is not possible for such a calamity to befall us as a family, as a country and no one knows. It is not possible. If no one knows, God certainly knows.
EM: Mugabe has accused your husband and yourself of being behind Simba Makoni’s Mavambo, what is your reaction to that and do you think the president and Gen Mujuru’s relationship had broken down by the time of his death?
DR JTR: Mugabe has accused me, my family and my late husband of many things. But does an accusation become true simply because it has been made by Mugabe? But let’s say his accusations were true, constitutionally there wasn’t anything wrong with helping someone to form a political party. Is that a crime? Anyway, his accusations were false and we are hearing many of Mugabe’s proxies, those that were peddling the same falsehoods publicly claiming that it was political banter. Some have gone to the extent of giving us details, saying the President bought us suits, gave us money to soil your name. I have heard all this and I forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Some of them are just children, my children, who acted in juvenile ignorance. I don’t hold anything against them. It is heartening that they have seen the light and also that they have the courage to come out publicly to say they are sorry, to say we were used. We have also heard what the leader of MKD, Simba Makoni, said about the same accusations.
EM: How do you want your husband to be remembered, do you think Zanu PF would have treated you the way it did if he was still alive?
DR JTR: Solomon was a people’s person. He was their soldier, their commander, their hero. He worked hard to bring together Zipra and Zanla during the liberation struggle. Because he had worked with Zipra before joining Zanla, he had acquaintances in both liberation war armies hence it was easy for him to bring them together. It is also for the same reason that he had to be called back from Pakistan where he was attending a military course when Gukurahundi started. He had to be called back to try to find ways of ending the fighting that had started in his absence.
In short, Solomon was a people’s person and the people showed it when they came in their thousands to pay their last respects to him, the biggest crowd ever to come to the Heroes Acre for the burial of a national hero. It is therefore not me who should prescribe how he should be remembered. It is up to the people to decide on how they want to remember him. As a family we loved him, we have our special way of remembering him and it remains a family tradition that I wish to keep within the family.
EM: Do you think he would have approved of your decision to turn to opposition politics after you left Zanu PF?
DR JTR: Certainly yes, there are many decisions that I took that he supported, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t support this one.
EM: Where does the ZimPF strength lie (mobilisation, policies, Zanu PF weakness)
DR JTR: Zim PF strength lies in the people. It is a party that put PEOPLE FIRST. Its strength is in the people. We exist right inside our people’s hearts so as long as the people are there with their hearts; we are strong, very strong.
EM: What is the party’s mobilisation strategy – does it have a rural or urban focus?
DR JTR: We focus on every part of the country where we have people. If the people are in Mars, we are there as long as they take their hearts with them. We are not confined to a place. We are confined within human anatomy, in people’s hearts. So our focus is where the people are and we appeal to their hearts.
EM: How strongly is the party resourced financially?
DR JTR: What do you mean by how strong? We are as financially stable as we are strong support-wise. The people are our benefactors, so for as long as we have them, we are ok.
EM: What plans do you have in place to ensure a free and fair election considering the history of disputed elections in Zimbabwe?
DR JTR: Sharing with you publicly our plans, our strategy would be the greatest betrayal I would have done to our people. Suffice to say, we know the shenanigans, and we have put in place plans to counter them to ensure our supporters’ votes are not put to waste.
EM: Is it true the party’s key structural legs are former Zanu PF officials and if so does this not present the party as a breakaway Zanu PF and not an entirely new political kid on the block?
DR JTR: It is not true. 60 percent of our membership comes from people who were not in any political party of any form.
EM: Has the party gauged its potential in countrywide membership – and where would you put it in comparison with existing parties?
DR JTR: We are satisfied with the work we are doing but we will never compare ourselves with other political parties to gauge where we are. Doesn’t the bible say “In comparing one to another, they were not wise?”
EM: What is your vision for Zimbabwe?
DR JTR: We envision a Zimbabwe with peace, unity and democracy. A Zimbabwe where everyone is prosperous and in which people’s interests are put first.
EM: What would you say to Zimbabweans that are losing hope of seeing the country enjoying economic prosperity and the fruits of the country’s independence such as freedom in their lifetime?
DR JTR: I say to them none but ourselves can free our country. It is our God-given habitat. Let’s fight to make it habitable. Together we can BUILD Zimbabwe and make it a first world country.
EM: What is your comment on the attendance at your rallies so far? Are you satisfied by the attendance and do you still believe you are the game changer in Zimbabwe’s politics?
DR JTR: We are happy with what we are seeing, but where I come from; you don’t beat your own drum. It is up to you to make an appraisal of the impact that we have made.
EM: Jonathan Moyo this week said you are corrupt and you are not yet off the hook. A lot of people said you were responsible in the plunder of diamonds in Chiyadzwa. What is your defence to that and can you shed light how the name “Churu chamai Mujuru” came into being in Chiyadzwa.
DR JTR: I thought he is the same Moyo who talked about all this being political banter. As for Churu chaMai Mujuru, there was a cabinet taskforce that had VaMutasa, VaSekeramayi, Mai Muchinguri-Kashiri, VaMushohwe and the late VaMidzi who investigated that. They found out that the people of Chiyadzwa who are next to Cashel Valley where I was instrumental in setting up a horticulture project were bragging to their Cashel Valley counterparts that now they had their own source of foreign currency when diamonds were found in their area. The Cashel Valley farmers were exporting their horticulture to London and were getting foreign currency at a time when other Zimbabweans we getting foreign currency through ‘burning’. They were getting back at their neighbours, in a jocular way, because for many years the Cashel Valley horticulture farmers bragged about what Mai Mujuru had done for them and when the Chiyadzwa villagers discovered diamonds, they too hit back and nicknamed a field “Churu ChaMai Mujuru”. I have also heard that there were Zupco buses nicknamed “ZviMai Mujuru”, does it mean I own the buses? That’s what happens when people fall in love with you as a person; you become a subject of their jests. It is normal and I take no offence.
But if there is anyone who insists that I committed any crime, could there be any better time than now to prosecute Mai Mujuru? Let those that have evidence sustainable in a court of law come forward and prove it before all and sundry.
Article courtesy of Zimabwe People First Information and Publicity office for public information.