via Mujuru bounces back – The Zimbabwean 16.9.2015
Joice Mujuru’s nascent party, formed by victims of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) purge under the ‘People First’ banner, last week released its Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage Development (Build).
People First pledges a raft of changes, which include compensating dispossessed farmers, establishment of a commission for national healing, privatisation of parastatals, security sector reforms and introduction of investor-friendly policies. It is a crisply phrased and forthright document which, on paper, sounds beautiful.
Zanu (PF) DNA
If only life played out on newsprint, then we would all embrace and kiss each other on the streets in celebration of a new Zimbabwe. But things seldom work out that way in politics, especially not when pledges are made by those who have had ample opportunity to actualise several other promises.
The People First leadership comprises battle-hardened politicians in the form of Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Nicholas Goche, Francis Nhema, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Joice Mujuru, who is an actual living former combatant, as opposed to suit-and-tie war strategist who never cocked a gun but falsely claim gallantry. But we must not forget that these are the people who were tutored in the science of politics by none other than Mugabe himself. Many of them know where all the cadavers are buried – if they themselves did not bury a few.
The PF manifesto could easily have been penned by any of the opposition parties, because its salient points are analogous to that which most pressure groups have been saying for a long time; allowing Diaspora vote, respecting property rights, setting up an anti-corruption commission, national healing, repealing oppressive media laws and ensuring impartiality of the military. The People First manifesto therefore begs the reasonable question – should we buy into the ‘people first’ claim, know full well that the DNA of Zanu (PF) runs through their arteries?
There are sceptics – cautious people – who are not convinced by the PF policy document. After all, what political party ever adhered to its manifesto! But at the same time, it has to be said one senses a buzz of expectancy among ordinary citizens.
In recent years, Zimbabwe has been steadily sinking deeper and deeper into crisis – 90% unemployment, electricity shortages and under-funded hospitals. A drowning man will scramble upon the nearest raft, without much concern about the identity of the oarsmen. Other than the collective wish for change among the masses, Mujuru has several attributes which have so far worked to her advantage.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so the saying goes. Mugabe’s popularity diminished long ago. At the last election where Zanu (PF) did not employ too much of its dirty tactics – 2008 – Mugabe was soundly beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai, before resorting to bloodshed in the ensuing run-off polls. In the constitutional referendum of February 2000, Zimbabweans voted against a draft constitution designed, in part, to strengthen Mugabe’s presidential powers, proving that the nation was tired of his leadership.
Millions have emigrated – over four million, it is estimated – preferring xenophobia, loneliness and bad weather to Mugabe’s rule.
Anyone who stands against Mugabe will naturally receive applause from a populace hungry for change.
Mugabe’s reign has been prolonged by myth – liberator, Karigamombe, smiter of the bull, most learned president in the world (never mind whether or not he displays the aptitude to apply his theoretical knowledge). Mujuru, through Zanu (PF)’s machinations, is also something of a mythical figure.
As a pubescent girl, she is said to have shot down an enemy helicopter in the liberation war. She married the country’s first post-independence army general. She overcame years of absence from school and, after coming out of the demobilisation centre, immediately enrolled into class, completed her O Levels and proceeded to upgrade her education to a proper PhD, whose provenance is unquestioned, whereas some earn doctorates in a matter of a few months.
When Grace Mugabe inveigled a PhD out of the compliant University of Zimbabwe vice chancellor, Mujuru’s verifiable doctorate only seemed to gain more lustre, much like when a supermodel with chest implants is juxtaposed against another with a God-given bosom.
The sympathy vote
Joice Mujuru lost her husband – a man who seemed to have the respect of many people – under very suspicious circumstances. Fires do not kill able-bodied ex-soldiers, in a house where the windows are only a foot high, especially not when, outside, a police detail is on guard.
Several government officials and prominent people have prematurely met their ancestors under equally baffling circumstances – convenient head-on collisions with army trucks, car bombs, improbable suicides and car tyre blow outs. So when Solomon Mujuru perished in an inferno, without a single guard coming to his rescue, naturally the hoi polloi raised a collective eyebrow.
Even when she was a member of the brutal Mugabe regime, Mujuru won over several people when she was seen showing genuine grief at the death of Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, in another vehicular collision whose authenticity still exercises the minds of most sceptics. Mujuru again showed compassion at the 2013 memorial of the Hwange coal miners who perished in the disaster of 1972. She is a widow and identified with those left husbandless by the mining catastrophe.
In October 2014, first lady Grace verbally attacked Mujuru, who she publicly accused of corruption, treason and immoral behaviour. For three straight months, Grace tore into Mujuru who, through it all, maintained her decorum. Grace’ husband joined in, adding witchcraft accusations to the catalogue of offences.
The louder Bob and Grace shouted, the quieter Mujuru remained and the higher her public approval ratings seemed to soar. When she finally emerged from her shell, her team had penned a well written policy document, a manifesto as it were. It has to be said, in her press release, she looks very presidential, seated as she is, at her broad desk, with the national flag as a backdrop.
But putting all emotion aside, Mujuru’s People First has plenty of doubters to convince. The difficult question, which only time can answer, is what makes anybody assume Mugabe will surrender the presidency without the usual deceit synonymous with Zanu (PF)?
After 35 years in a corrupt, brutal and incompetent government, can Zimbabwe expect better leadership from People First? Can we look forward to seeing any of them surrendering their ill-gotten wealth to charity as penance? Why suddenly have the ordinary people become ‘first?’
The preamble of Mujuru’s Build document reads, ‘Zimbabwe belongs to all people who call it home, regardless of colour, creed…’ Ahead of the 2013 polls, Jabulani Sibanda, a staunch ally of Mujuru, said ‘the only good white man is a dead one.’ What strange magical wind has blown a fresh viewpoint into Sibanda’s eyes?
In 2014, before he was shot out of a cannon from Zanu (PF), Rugare Gumbo disparaged Tsvangirai’s claims of a coalition government proposition by Mugabe. ‘Tsvangirai’s proposal for another coalition is hogwash… as Zanu (PF) we have efficient policies and programmes and it is clear that the MDC-T has nothing,’ he said. Why has the MDC suddenly become Gumbo’s ally? After 35 years of economic demolition, can Joice suddenly BUILD?
I personally will keep an open mind but remain guided by the basic principle that people never change – except maybe just their socks and underwear. – Till next week, my pen is capped. Jerà