Source: Stodgy Mujuru should step out of her shell – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 6, 2017
THE fight between National People’s Party (NPP) leader, Joice Mujuru’s lieutenants Jealousy Mawarire and George Nyandoro last week could have been a welcome distraction for the former Vice-President after having a few days of hell on the interview circuit.
guest column: NQABA MATSHAZI
Mujuru has featured in several foreign television interviews since she became an opposition figure and all of them had two things in common; they were cringe worthy and very uncomfortable to watch.
Instead of coming across like someone who wanted to sell her vision, Mujuru looked like a beast being dragged to the slaughter, unconvincing and always clutching at straws.
While Mujuru had been in government for eons, she always faced friendly faces in journalists from State media, who never asked her hard questions, while private media could easily be shooed away for being a pesky inconvenience.
But now that she is an opposition figure, the terrain is quite different and her team should have prepared her better for interviews.
While it could be a good vanity project for Mujuru to appear on BBC’s HardTalk, there was really no reason for her to do so, unless her handlers were confident she could field the tough questions, which even most seasoned political players and experienced interviewees sometimes flounder at.
The former Vice-President’s Achilles heel will always be the Gukurahundi massacres and she has failed dismally at every turn to answer questions on that dark period.
Explaining away Gukurahundi will always be difficult, but at least Mujuru and her handlers should have found a way to give a credible reason why she did nothing nor speak out during that era, rather than the meek responses she has given so far.
For example, Mujuru could say, she, like many others, were caught up in the post-independence euphoria and invested power in one man, President Robert Mugabe, that they did not understand what he was doing with that power, even if it meant a genocide was unfolding right under their noses.
She would have been asked about her judgment — as she was by Stephen Suckur, the host of the show — but Mujuru should have thrown back the question at her interviewer and said the British were busy knighting Mugabe, while their universities were conferring honorary doctorates on him in spite of the Gukurahundi massacres.
Mujuru should have told her interlocutor that Mugabe had blind-sided her and everyone else and that the Gukurahundi was planned by a tiny group within the party.
This would not absolve her from any guilt and questions will continue to linger, but rather, it will show that she has the mental aptitude to answer this question that will always follow her as long as she dabbles in opposition politics.
She could also have tried to be more sophisticated and raised the spectre of the geo-political situation in the 1980s, at the height of the Gukurahundi, as this also coincided with the tail-end of the Cold War.
The West was more than willing to pour money into Zimbabwe then, even with the ghoulish massacres, which claimed an estimated 20 000 lives, and chose to pretend a genocide was not unfolding.
The West did the same with Rwanda, as their interests have always trumped local politics, even if it literally meant supping with the devil.
The more repressive Mugabe became, the more money was poured into Zimbabwe ostensibly to crush a potential uprising that could spread communism in the region, as ANC in South Africa, Zapu in Zimbabwe, Swapo in Namibia and MPLA in Angola were seen as clients of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and had to be stopped at all costs.
What she would be doing here is illustrating that everybody rested on their laurels and went to sleep and it is not only her judgment that should be questioned.
She may have been a minister for years and a deputy for a decade, but Mujuru can plausibly explain that she was not in the loop and power in Zanu PF and government rests solely with one person, Mugabe, and sometimes ministers and their deputies have no idea what is going on.
A good example is one of then Vice-President Joseph Msika and then Home Affairs minister John Nkomo, who, at different times, ordered war veterans out of the farms they had invaded in 2000, only for Mugabe to come and overrule them and the land grabs continued.
Mujuru’s performance in the interviews is an indictment of herself and the party, they were too eager to sell her to an international audience, when she was clearly not ready; she was thrown into the deep end so to say.
Even her delivery sometimes left a lot to be desired – she was too cautious and her answers were staid.
She lacked emotion and conviction and at the end of the day, she lost the audience.
In one interview with Fadzayi Mahere, Mujuru was again her stodgy self, but there was a moment when the interview was over, and maybe she thought the cameras were no longer rolling, where suddenly she was oozing with passion and conviction.
The clip was very brief, but it showed that she could have what it takes to win over an audience if she removes herself from her comfort zone and that is what should be harped on her.
The next few months are going to be difficult for her as she will get more interview requests and that could be the only opportunity for her to win over some undecided voters and fence sitters.
She needs to get out of her shell more, speak from her heart and give logical answers rather than the spiritless responses she has come to be associated with.