HARARE – After harvesting dozens of post-congress Zanu PF officials around the country in the past few weeks, former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s People First is now on a roll, with almost the entire leadership of Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) party defecting to the movement on Friday.
People First spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that apart from post-congress Zanu PF cadres continuing to stampede to the movement, national executive members of Makoni’s MKD had met Mujuru on Friday night in the capital, and resolved to join her.
“They (MKD officials) were absolutely happy to have the opportunity to meet with Mai Mujuru. They came as the MKD executive and agreed to dissolve it and join People First as individuals.
“The key things they admire Mai Mujuru for is the fact that she is a war veteran who is principled and consistent, and who has been vice president for 10 years.
“They like our core values which they said meet their expectations of democracy, justice and respect for each other … and we are confident that we will be able to meet their expectations,” Gumbo said.
However, contacted for comment, Makoni said he was not aware of the defections.
“I am not aware that there was a meeting between Mujuru and the MKD officials. If there was one, then it was not sanctioned by the party, and so they met in their individual capacities,” he said — adding that the development would not affect the mooted opposition coalition.
“We do not change positions on a daily basis. We have been and still are as committed to a grand coalition of all progressive forces as ever. Nothing has changed”.
The Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, reported last week that Mujuru’s forays into the post-congress Zanu PF’s support base around the country had left many of the ruling party’s provincial and local structures in turmoil.
This was after it was revealed that the popular widow of the late liberation struggle icon, General Solomon Mujuru, was vigorously “fishing” for members from among Zanu PF’s ranks, with dozens of both the ruling party’s former leading lights and current officials said to have switched camps.
Particularly hard hit by these People First raids, have been the post-congress Zanu PF’s Mashonaland East structures, whose officials and general members have been holding meetings with Mujuru.
This was confirmed by Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Joel Biggie Matiza who said party supporters were suspicious about the motives and machinations of some of their comrades who they were no longer willing to continue working with as they were consorting with Mujuru.
“That is the exact reason why we recommended that some of these people be expelled because we realised they are no longer with us as they are now working with the opposition. We are only waiting to hear from the politburo concerning their fate,” Matiza said.
High-ranking ruling post-congress Zanu PF officials have also conceded to the Daily News that the decision to purge Mujuru and her close allies from the party following its disputed December 2014 congress was increasingly looking like “a costly and monumental blunder”.
“Things are not looking good on the ground as the party is now bleeding long-standing comrades to People First, and this is happening even before that party has been properly launched.
“Our worry is what will happen to the party when Runaida (Mujuru) officially launches her outfit in the next few months? I’m personally beginning to see the fact that the decision to expel her was not well-considered and that 2018 will be tough,” a Mashonaland East party bigwig lamented.
The official also confirmed that many of the post-congress Zanu PF’s structures in the province were currently in disarray following “en-masse defections” by dozens of both officials and ordinary party members to the People First project.
“It is clear that the decision to continue suspending and expelling people from the party (post-congress Zanu PF) because of their alleged links to Mai Mujuru is becoming a major driving force behind the stampede to People First. It is all proving counter-productive,” the official said.
Other well-placed sources said at least 22 former ruling party officials had attended a People First meeting in Goromonzi last week, with “resources and a mandate to co-ordinate and aggressively recruit Zanu members”.
These officials included former Zanu PF national youth league political commissar John Mushayi, former Mashonaland East provincial executive member Bonny Mutize, and another provincial executive member Solomon Ganye from Seke.
Mushayi confirmed the defections saying since their suspension from the brawling ruling party, they had been under pressure from the public to join Mujuru.
“People are angry with the way she and all of us were treated because nobody was given an opportunity to state their case. This led people to conclude that they needed an alternative party which could usher in the kind of democracy that they have been yearning for, for a long time now.
“Although we have not started serious mobilisation yet, it is clear from what we are seeing and hearing from people that they are ready for Mai Mujuru.
“They see her as the solution to the many economic and political challenges that the country is facing and they are coming in their hundreds to ask for information about People First,” Mushayi said.
Following her expulsion from both the government and the warring ruling party on untested allegations of plotting to oust and assassinate President Robert Mugabe, Mujuru and her team of disaffected liberation struggle stalwarts vowed to fight back and expose Zanu PF for the “paper tiger” that they claim it is.
The panicky post-congress Zanu PF is also said to be making frantic preparations for yet more Parliamentary by-elections after it emerged that dozens of the party’s legislators were holding meetings with Mujuru with the intention of joining her.
Zanu PF insiders have said it was “panic stations” among ruling party bigwigs who understood the fact that People First “is a reality and a major threat” to their fortunes ahead of 2018.
“Never mind the fake bravado that the chefs (senior party officials) mouth off at public platforms, it is panic stations in the party.
“Provinces, particularly Mashonaland East, have been instructed to prepare for tough by-elections for the MPs who want to ditch us,” one of the sources said.