Former Zanu PF senior official Didymus Mutasa says he would “rather die than rejoin” President Robert Mugabe’s warring governing party as has been “maliciously speculated” on social media and in some political circles over the past few weeks.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Mutasa said he had chosen to be part of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party that is led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru, because he wanted to see “the authors of the country’s problems (Zanu PF) consigned to the dust bins of history” before he quits politics.
The soft-spoken politician also said if he had wanted to be re-admitted into Zanu PF, he could have made such moves “a long time ago”, but had never contemplated doing so because of “a dearth of democracy and humanity in the ruling party”.
“Some people are genuinely confused because of the talk that I may rejoin Zanu PF. But the truth is that I would rather die than rejoin them. What is there, after all, to envy in Zanu PF?
“I was expelled from Zanu PF and I refused to apologise for my beliefs because handidi (I don’t want to). Let me make this clear, I don’t ever want to be associated with Zanu PF,” Mutasa said emphatically.
He added that no sane person could now want to identify with the former liberation movement, a party he said had the “tragic tendency of being heartless and burying its head in the sand like an ostrich” while the country burns and people suffer.
“Zanu PF is consumed by its terrible factional and succession fights and I cannot be associated with that. Imagine if I were to rejoin Zanu PF, which of the two factions I would work with?
“I am very happy as a member of People First, and as such nothing will ever attract me back to the chaotic ruling party,” Mutasa said.
Asked if he did not feel that he was in the same category as Mugabe, who at 92 is accused by not only those in the opposition but also many within Zanu PF of being too old to remain in active politics, he said age was just a number.
“Politics is not determined by age. I am motivated by what is going on in the country. People are suffering and there are so many things that have to be corrected first before I leave politics” he said.
Quizzed further if Mugabe’s departure from the helm of the country would on its own make Zimbabwe a better place, Mutasa said the problem was also a result of the system, the governing party and those bigwigs who were jostling to succeed the nonagenarian.
“The problem is not with Mugabe alone, it also lies in the people who surround him and those who want to succeed him. If they behaved differently, we wouldn’t have many of the problems we are facing right now,” he said.
Mutasa spoke at a time that respected Zanu PF elder, Cephas Msipa, has confirmed what the country’s opposition has always complained bitterly about, that the ruling party uses violence and other thuggish methods to win elections and to remain in power.
Speaking candidly in an exclusive interview with the Daily News at the weekend, Msipa — who has been one of the few consistent voices of reason in Zanu PF — also warned Mujuru and ZPF to brace up for a violent suppression by the ruling party, as has happened repeatedly to former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC.
Msipa’s frank admission of Zanu PF’s violent tendencies came hot on the heels of similar sentiments by former Zambian vice president Guy Scott, who also recently said Mugabe used violence to remain in power.
“They (ZPF) have a mammoth task before them. I know Zanu PF are good at defending themselves and remaining in power. Since 1980, they (Zanu PF) have been using the same tactic.
“They will do everything possible to destroy their opponents. They use all sorts of dirty tactics, including violence and intimidation. They think to win an election they need to use force,” a sad Msipa said.
Ever since Mujuru formally launched her party, her supporters have been at the receiving end of Zanu PF’s jungle justice, with ZPF members being attacked wantonly around the country — as has happened to Tsvangirai and the MDC since 1999.
In 2008, Tsvangirai was even forced to withdraw from that year’s controversial presidential election run-off after serious violence broke out, amid reports of hundreds of MDC supporters being murdered in cold blood.
“Our problem in Zimbabwe is one of fear and Zanu PF is taking advantage of that, which is very sad,” Msipa said, adding that it was not only ordinary Zimbabweans who were fearful of Mugabe and Zanu PF, but also ruling party bigwigs as well.
“I know that for a fact, and my friends in Zanu PF are now even afraid of talking to me since I retired from politics. They fear that if they associate with me they will be chastised. That is why I wrote my book, In Pursuit Of Freedom and Justice.
“People must feel free. People died for this freedom. We suffered and sacrificed so that people can be free. I really get very angry when I realise that people are not free to exercise their freedom,” he said.
Last week, Msipa also said keeping Mugabe in power was tantamount to “punishing” the increasingly frail nonagenarian, further urging the long-ruling leader to retire immediately.
“My serious advice to him (Mugabe) is that he should rest now, as he has done so much for the country. In a way, he has done a lot for this country, and really in all fairness we are punishing him. When will he rest, when he is dead?” he asked rhetorically.
“I feel sorry for him as a friend. I think he must just be given time to rest. We live in this world for a much shorter period than we realise. He really needs a rest. A race is run up to a certain point and there comes a point when you must rest.
“It’s good for him, good for his family and good for the party. We need new ideas. These can only come with leadership renewal. I would like him to rest,” the concerned Msipa emphasised repeatedly.
The former Midlands Provincial Affairs minister — who fondly refers to Mugabe as muzukuru (Shona for nephew) — said there was no doubt that Mugabe had played his part, which was why he now needed to pass on the baton.
He challenged some Zanu PF hardliners who were advocating for the nonagenarian’s further stay in power to be “human and stop punishing” him.
“We should all feel sorry for him. We are punishing him. Those who are saying he should continue, we don’t seem to care about him. I know some people want him to stay for their own protection.
“I also know some of them feel he is protecting them. He gave them certain positions and so they are afraid that if he goes they will lose those positions. It’s unfair for us to punish a man for all this time. Let him sit back and watch. It’s very important after all that hard work,” Msipa said.
He also claimed that just before he left active politics he had asked Mugabe to retire, an offer that was turned down.
“I went to see Mugabe with my two sons where I told him to retire. He told me that in politics you don’t retire, but that you rather die there. That’s his philosophy. So in a way he seems to be enjoying the position, but he must also think of rest, because he is punishing himself physically. We are all human beings and the fire in us burns out and you can’t go on trying to keep putting on some light when it’s burning out,” he said.
Asked what kind of a person Mugabe was at a personal level, Msipa described the nonagenarian as a “difficult” character to understand.
“He is in a way difficult to understand. He can be very charming but also he can be repellent and very cruel. He can be very charming and the next moment he can do things that you cannot believe he can do.
“For instance, when Murambatsvina (operation clean-up) started, I phoned him because I thought that was uncharacteristic of him, but when he has decided that this man is my enemy, he will do everything to crush you.
“That is his problem, there are no two ways about it. So in short, he can be very cruel if you stand in his way because he wants things to be done in his way,” he said.