FORMER Vice-President Joice Mujuru has lashed out at her successor, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, describing him as a male chauvinist and unelectable because of his alleged role in the Gukurahundi massacres.
Mujuru – who now heads the opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) following her expulsion from the ruling party last year on allegations of plotting to dethrone President Robert Mugabe – made the remarks in an interview with The Africa Report during her European tour early this month to drum up Diaspora support for her party.
The former Vice-President insinuated the two had clashed over who was more senior in the party prior to independence and this could have poisoned their relations after 1980.
“I’m sure his problem is male ego. When he came to join this struggle in 1978, I was already a member of the (Zanu) central committee and national executive. But he wants to bring in what he was in the 1960s, which never had an impact, because he was arrested before he could do anything and jailed by Ian Smith,” she said.
“And his parents came and demanded (his release because) he was underage and he was Zambian.”
Mujuru further intimated Mnangagwa was a war deserter and could not lead the country.
“He went to Zambia, he went into hiding and carried on with his education. Some of our commanders approached him when he was at the University of Zambia … and he refused,” she said.
“But he is unelectable simply because during Gukurahundi (1980s mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces), he was the right-hand man of Mugabe in this Fifth Brigade, which was not part of the army.”
An estimated 20 000 civilians were killed during Gukurahundi after the Zanu PF government deployed the Fifth Brigade in rural Matabeleland and Midlands to hunt down suspected PF-Zapu dissidents.
Mnangagwa, then State Security minister, was allegedly deeply involved in plotting the massacres.
The VP, who until recently was touted as Mugabe’s heir apparent, now faces fierce resistance from Zanu PF’s G40 faction, which is reportedly backing First Lady Grace Mugabe to succeed her 92-year-old husband.
Although Mnangagwa and Grace have publicly denied harbouring presidential ambitions, their supporters insist that the two remain the ruling party’s front runners for the post.
Mujuru — whose party is currently involved in coalition talks with other opposition parties with the aim of fielding one presidential candidate to challenge Mugabe in the 2018 elections — indicated she was prepared to work with MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, barring the existing mistrust issues between the two parties.
“As People First, we respect Tsvangirai. He helped us because our fear and our respect (for Mugabe) really damaged us,” she said.
“We could not be bold the way. Tsvangirai was, I respect him for that. We know the strengths and weaknesses of each party. Tsvangirai’s strength resonates with you outsiders, not with Zimbabweans … but with (our strength), they have now seen that it’s Zimbabwean. The war veterans understand what was missing in Tsvangirai’s outfit … (we are) now mapping out which areas and what we can start working on together.
“So the confidence is there, but we are now saying let’s move on and give each other trust, and this trust has to be built slowly, but surely.”
The two politicians, however, appear headed for a confrontation, as their parties are divided over which candidate to back.
Although Mujuru brings liberation fighter and street credibility to the opposition, her three decades of service to the ruling party under Mugabe make her suspect in the eyes of many opposition activists, The Africa Report said.
MDC-T supporters strongly believe Tsvangirai is the suitable candidate to lead the coalition, despite his lack of liberation war credentials and losing to Mugabe in three successive elections.
On the other hand, Mujuru supporters are of the view that she has the pedigree to woo the Zanu PF electorate to her side and challenge Mugabe in the election ring.
In the interview, Mujuru denied that her Zanu PF background would dent her candidature, insisting that she always opposed Mugabe’s use of violence to win elections.
“Beating and killing – that’s not right. And I’ve been complaining about that – even when I was in Zanu PF,” she said. “Being a freedom fighter, we treasured good relationships with the masses, the very same masses that we fought for. You need to educate them so that they understand your principles. And discuss differences. I am different from Zanu PF because I tolerate,” she said. newsday