AFTER months of speculation following her dismissal from the ruling party in December 2014, former vice president Joice Mujuru emerged out of her shell last week to launch the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), which hopes to give President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF a good run for its money.
Hordes of journalists poured out to report on this development and so did hundreds of ordinary people who braved that morning’s drizzle to catch a glimpse of a repackaged Mujuru, who chose a local five-star hotel as the venue for her press briefing.
The excitement caused by her re-entry into politics is understandable.
Zimbabwe’s opposition parties, have for the past three decades tried unsuccessfully to wrest power from ZANU-PF. Only a few of them came close to posing a real challenge to the ruling party, but they have since lost their momentum. Many of them are just pale shadows of their former selves.
The 2013 elections, in which the opposition parties lost by embarrassing margins, should have come as a wake-up call to President Mugabe’s rivals, including Morgan Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party shook ZANU-PF to its foundations in 2008 by winning the majority of seats in Parliament; forcing the ruling party into a coalition government after a hotly contested plebiscite, which could not produce a clear winner in the first round of the presidential poll.
None of the opposition parties seem to have learnt anything from this. Against that background, can Mujuru take the fight to ZANU-PF to the point of dislodging it from power in 2018?
On the plus side, she has the liberation war credentials which might resonate well with those who believe that the highest office in the land is “a straight-jacket” that cannot be occupied by non-war veterans. Having worked in government since 1980, with the last 10 years as President Mugabe’s deputy, Mujuru is also experienced enough to understand how a government should be run.
Policy-wise, ZPF is also saying all the good things that Zimbabweans want to hear, but lo and behold; none of it is new.
To a lot of people, ZPF is preaching to the converted, hence the current talk in certain quarters that Mujuru and her ilk should have joined the existing opposition parties instead of re-inventing the wheel.
ZPF is also adding to the numbers in an already congested field in which opposition parties have done a great disservice to themselves by not forging a united front against ZANU-PF, which enjoys huge advantages, among them a skewed electoral playing field.
What that has done is to split the opposition vote, much to the pleasure of ZANU-PF, which could be handed another easy victory at the 2018 polls in the event that Mujuru, Tsvangirai and other opposition party leaders do not merge.
While Mujuru has some advantages that might give her the momentum, we doubt if these are enough on their own to present a real threat to ZANU-PF.
It is encouraging though that Mujuru seems to be alive to these issues judging by her call for a levelled political playing field, as well as her pledge that ZPF is “open to dialogue”.
But as with all politicians, we shall judge Mujuru by her actions as opposed to her words because what comes out of the mouth of a politician should never be believed.
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