IS ZIMBABWE READY FOR PRESIDENT JOICE MUJURU?
Former Vice President Joice Mujuru is among the 16 candidates vying for the Zimbabwean presidency
IN About 40 days, Zimbabweans will participate in a watershed election which will usher the Southern African nation into a new phase following the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe who clung onto power for 38 years.
This election is historic in the sense that it will be the first where Mugabe and the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be taking part in, rather this election is mainly about newcomers both in the presidential, parliamentary and council seats. This election is special as we even have 16 candidates vying for the highest post in the land. The election comes at a time when the gospel of generational consensus has reached far and wide and can definitely not be ignored. In essence, there is a lot at stake.
The election will also put an end to the transitional government led by Emmerson Mnangagwa popularly referred to as ED which came into power following a military coup which deposed of Mugabe in November 2017. Although the new dispensation led by ED has had its challenges, it has presented a ray of hope to some and has boosted the confidence of investors in the international community while at the same time removing the pariah state tag, however the same cannot be said at home where the majority cannot wait to see Zanu PF out the door. This is understandable because Zimbabweans have suffered for 38 long years. If ED loses the election, it may spell the end of Zanu PF rule which the majority of Zimbabweans would like to see happen. On the other end, if the MDC alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa wins, it could also be a victory for the generation consensus. If again one of the female presidential candidates like Joice Mujuru or Thokozani Khupe wins, it will be a victory for women for finally having one of their own in the driving seat.
As a Zimbabwean woman, I am particularly impressed by the fact that this election will see notable women of substance vying for the highest office in the land. Candidates like Mujuru and Khupe who are seasoned politicians have also thrown their hats into the ring after heading to pleas of having female presidential candidates. This in my opinion as a Zimbabwean woman is definitely a step in the right direction because we make up for at least 52 per cent of the population and there is nothing that is stopping us from taking up positions of authority in political spaces as it will go a long way in ensuring that our issues are addressed. After all, this is supported by the spirit and the letter of the Zimbabwe Constitution. As natural multi-taskers both on the home and professional front, I believe that women have the stamina to take us to Canaan.
This article is the first of a series where I intend to talk discuss the women who have offered themselves up for public office starting from the presidential candidates. With 40 days away from the poll, I'm not sure if I'll be able to talk about all of them but I shall try. In this instalment, I feature Joice Mujuru, a woman who needs no introduction.
Born on April 15, 1955, in Mount Darwin, Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru is the leader of National Peoples Party. She is a force to reckon with based on her experiences before and after independence. Her experiences in government for over 3 decades makes her more than suitable for the position of president. Mujuru is also a veteran of the liberation struggle a factor that is so important to the people of Zimbabwe if the inclusion of the need to acknowledge the liberation struggle which is interred in the Constitution is anything to go by.
During the liberation struggle, Mujuru is credited with shooting down a helicopter belonging to the colonialists after refusing to flee when others including men whom we've been made to believe are stronger and braver on 17 February 1974. This report was however vehemently denied by presidential advisor Chris Mutswangwa soon after her expulsion from Zanu PF and Government. What however cannot be questioned is the fact that at barely 21, Mujuru was a political instructor at Chimoio and Mozambique military, a position she attained because of her leadership qualities.
She served in the Zimbabwean government from 1980 -2014 where she held various ministerial positions including that of vice president. It is very characteristic of Mujuru to score a first on many counts. For instance, this year she is among the first group of women vying for the presidential seat. In 1980, she scored a first when she became the youngest cabinet minister in an independent Zimbabwe. A tried and tested woman, Mujuru has never at anytime let anything get in the way of achieving her goals as is evidenced by the fact that in 1978, while 9 months pregnant she was active in combat when her base came under attack only to give birth a few days later after the encounter.
In 2004 Mujuru was appointed as the first female vice president of the ruling Zanu PF party as well as the government of Zimbabwe. Her appointment was greeted with a lot of excitement especially by the women's movement who had been campaigning for equal representation of women in positions of authority. During this period, I was working at the Heralds features desk and was tasked to compile a supplement on her appointment and it was such an honour and remains one of the highlight of my career second from of course my confrontation with former president Mugabe in 2011.
- Minister of Community Development and Women's Affairs (1980-1985)
- Minister of State in Prime Ministers Office (1985-88)
- Minister of Community Development, Cooperatives and Women's Affairs (1988-1992)
- Resident Minister and Governor Mashonaland Central (1992-1996)
- Minister of Information Post and Telecommunication (1996-1997)
- Minister of Rural Resources and Water Development (1997-2004)
- First Vice President of Zimbabwe (2004-2014)
Strengths, Political Capital
Like her or not, Mujuru is a trusted pair of hands otherwise she would not have survived as Mugabe's number 2. At this juncture, it is important to remember that Mujuru was not betrayed by Mugabe but by his wife Grace who did everything in her power to drag Mujuru's name in mud and soiling her image in Mugabe's presence. One will remember how Mujuru almost outfoxed ED when she lined up provincial structures with her supporters in all the countries 10 elective provinces. She did not get fired because of Mugabe but because of former First Lady Grace Mugabe's gossip machinery. Reports even suggest that uncle Bob apologised to her after she was vindicated.
Mujuru also gave a good record of herself during the Government of National Unity between Zanu PF and the MDC between 2008- 2013. Mujuru exerted herself against all odds as a moderate who tolerated other peoples views even if they did not necessarily dovetail with the party she represented. Most of us will remember how Mujuru came under fire for being too cosy with the late then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In spite of her impressive CV, Mujuru failed to turn her liberation credentials and the never say die attitude she exhibited during the liberation struggle into political capital as she appeared to be out of her depth in political cunning and shrewdness needed to navigate the minefield of the Zimbabwean political environment.
She also appears to be under the spell of Mugabe who she refuses to speak out against preferring to call him her father, which has seen her somewhat lose her political gravitas. Most people expected her to give an expose of Mugabe after she was unceremoniously fired but instead, she defended the nonagenarian who is largely blamed for the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe. This was revealed especially during her interview with BBC's hard talk host Steven Sucker. Her long association with Zanu PF which is responsible for the current socio-political and economic woes in the country also works against her. Once the most powerful woman in Zimbabwe, Mujuru's political wilderness after her exit from Zanu PF and government also set her at a disadvantage as she chose not to fight back in the same manner that her counterpart Mnangagwa did.
It is also not a secret that Mujuru has failed to keep her party together, If you recall dear reader, she started off by being the leader of Zim People First which went on to split not long after its formation.
In an article I wrote for the Daily News (https://www.dailynews.co.zw/articles/2015/05/29/mujuru-can-slay-zanu-pf-in-2018), several political analysts alluded to the fact that the opposition could win against Zanu PF if they formed an alliance with Mujuru as their presidential candidate. In the article, I spoke to analysts who argued that Mujuru could reign in support from disaffected Zanu PF members and would be a favourable candidate as she was entering into the fray as a first-time candidate.
They also said that the fact that she was a woman, and a mother would endear voters to her and also that she is widely viewed as a moderate. I vividly remember how she came out guns blazing and denounced violence perpetrated by Zanu PF militia Chipangano during the days it was active. She called on the police to arrest all perpetrators of violence.
Analysts also attributed that Mujuru was a force to reckon because she had a lot of political and social capital and is an acceptable candidate regionally and internationally but then again politics is not easy, popularity does not exactly translate to votes.
But as they say, a day in politics is a lifetime. This interview was in 2015, and since then so much has happened on the political scene in Zimbabwe. Mugabe is gone, removed by his deputy who decided to draw a line in the sand against the old dictator’s tendency towards arbitrary abuse of power. Morgan Tsvangirai, with whom Mujuru appeared to have a good rapport with, is late and his MDC party has been taken over by a relatively young and ambitious leader Chamisa. I doubt is Chamisa would be party to any talk of an alliance in which Mujuru would be a leader. Whichever way one looks at it, the political environment in 2018 is different from 2015, and the pace of change is faster and the direction of change is forward-looking.
I am convinced that in terms of qualities and technical competencies, Mujuru would make a good President. But she is a running a race among a pack of wolves.