By Tendai Kamhungira
Former Vice President and Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) interim leader, Joice Mujuru, has received a significant boost in her quest to become the country’s first female president after her potential rival Margaret Dongo confirmed yesterday that she will not be contesting for the party’s leadership at its forthcoming elective convention.
The ex-Cabinet minister has already given notice that she is ready to become Zimbabwe’s first ever female presidential candidate in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, although she still has to win her party’s nomination and possibly also navigate the hazardous terrain that is the mooted grand opposition coalition.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper the Daily News last week, Mujuru said she would take the opportunity to lead Zimbabwe with both hands if it came her way.
ZPF insiders said the unusually candid remarks by President Robert Mugabe’s former long-standing deputy — before her brutal purge from the warring Zanu PF — were made in the full knowledge that her path at the party’s planned convention, whose dates are yet to be announced, was now “clear” after Dongo confirmed that she would not contest the fledgling political outfit’s presidency.
This was after ZPF sources intimated that Mujuru was facing a potential banana skin after it emerged at the time that some party bigwigs who were not happy with the way she had allegedly sidelined party elders Didymus Mutsa and Rugare Gumbo were pushing for Dongo to challenge her for the party’s top post.
But in a major boost to Mujuru, Dongo confirmed to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that she had no intention of challenging Mujuru, further dismissing the suggestions that she was angling for ZPF’s leadership as “utter” rubbish.
“I have no intentions whatsoever to be leader of ZPF. If anything, I will support (Cde) Mujuru’s confirmation by the convention into the party leadership position. For those who have been speculating that I am a possible contender, I repeat that I do not intend to stand.
“We feel betrayed by Mugabe in the same way. That is why we decided to put our energy together. And for those leaders that are bent on dividing us, it won’t work. Those tactics are mostly used in Zanu PF and I will not succumb to any pressures from within and outside to do what I don’t want to do,” she said.
Speaking to the Daily News on Friday, Mujuru — probably sensing that her path in ZPF had been cleared by Dongo — said if Zimbabweans were willing to support her, she was not afraid to stand against any other contestant as the country’s first female presidential candidate.
“I am very confident of what I am doing and if the people of Zimbabwe see that I am good enough to support, I am ready to stand. I have come a long way fighting for the women’s cause and this is the last leg that I should show this country that here we are, and we can also do things,” she said.
“I am asking you (women), are you ready to vote for me? We are in the majority. I have women who are supporting me now and will be having sessions with young professional women who will take me to task about their expectations, needs and wants,” Mujuru said.
Political analysts have said Mujuru and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are the best combination to bring to an end Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s long rule in 2018.
Both the MDC and ZPF are among the opposition parties which have coalesced under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), which is pushing for much-needed electoral reforms ahead of the looming polls.
Since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him in the streets of Gweru in August this year — in a rare public display of unity among the opposition — there have been growing calls by fed up citizens for the formation of a grand opposition alliance.
Recently, Mujuru has also been meeting Tsvangirai to discuss Zimbabwe’s worsening political and economic rot, as well as the framework for the formation of the mooted grand coalition. Daily News