President Robert Mugabe recently met with his estranged former deputy, Joice Mujuru, in a bid to woo her back into Zanu (PF) after expelling her nearly a year ago.
Insiders said the meeting took place last month as Mugabe was anxious to stop Mujuru from forming a political party that could pose a strong threat to Zanu (PF) in the 2018 elections.
Mujuru was expelled, together with numerous other senior party members, at the December 2014 Zanu (PF) congress – which she did not attend. She and her supporters were accused by Mugabe and other senior anti-Mujuru crusaders – notably her replacement Emmerson Mnangagwa and the president’s wife Grace – of plotting to remove the president from power.
The expelled members have formed a transitional movement called People First, which is expected to transform into an opposition political party in due course.
“There is a big likelihood that Joice will return to Zanu (PF). Mugabe must have charmed her when they met. She has never been decisive about leading a party opposed to Mugabe. Indications are that she has been won over,” said a source close to Mujuru.
Security operatives monitoring People First also confirmed the development. “There are high level talks taking place between HE (His Excellency, Mugabe) and Joice. The puzzle will fall into place once this year’s conference takes place,” said a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) mole.
The sources said Mujuru attended the meeting without the knowledge of the People First council of elders which includes Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and the outspoken Dzikamai Mavhaire who joined the group recently.
At the meeting, Mugabe reportedly apologised to Mujuru for treating her crudely and accused Mnangagwa, Grace and other anti-Mujuru plotters within Zanu (PF) of misleading him.
“He told Joice that he had come to realise that her foes in the party had misled him. He described Grace as “povo” (ordinary person) who lacked political tact and Mnangagwa as too ambitious,” said the first source, who has been working with Mujuru to form a party.
Mugabe reportedly said he was disappointed with Mnangagwa, saying he did not have grassroots support and was causing divisions in the party. The sources said the president offered to reinstate Mujuru as vice president and promised he would order his structures to debate her return to the party at the December conference.
It was not immediately clear how he would give Mujuru back her position, considering that the conference is not elective. Mugabe is said to have suggested that she would have to bring with her the structures she might have built so that they would go the 2018 general elections as a unified Zanu (PF) at which the 91-year-old leader would campaign for her to replace him as president.
Rugare Gumbo, the PF spin-doctor, dismissed claims of the meeting between Mugabe and Mujuru.
“You are falling victim to the Harare rumour mill because that is not true. This is an exaggeration of the situation on the ground. The truth is that we are working on how to launch our party and that will happen in due course,” said Gumbo.
The sources said Mujuru briefed her council of elders after meeting Mugabe, causing panic among her senior lieutenants who are said to be suspicious that she did not tell them the full facts about the meeting.
This pushed them to hastily compile the PF manifesto, BUILD, in which Mujuru did not take part but agreed to sign.
“The likes of Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo felt that Mujuru had swallowed Mugabe’s bait and seem convinced that she intends to go back to Zanu (PF). So they agreed to quickly launch the PF BUILD manifesto. But that document had no input from Mujuru save for her signature. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the meeting,” said one of the sources.
Mujuru ostensibly agreed to adopt the manifesto to give her a bargaining tool with Mugabe, having been emboldened by the gesture he had made to her. The sources said the former vice president had changed her attitude to PF since the engagement with Mugabe.
While she initially emphasised that the PF structures must revolve around young blood, she is said to have shifted and now wants the old guard to lead the movement while insisting that the new leadership of her organisation must be derived from the old guard that was expelled from Zanu (PF).
She has become evasive about the launch of a new political party, said the sources. The council of elders is said to be pressuring her to come clean on when the party would be launched, but she is arguing that that must be delayed until three months after the Zanu (PF) conference.
“Her argument is that they must first observe how Zanu (PF) conducts itself at the conference and draw some lessons from that. However, there is a strong suspicion among the elders that she is buying time and is likely to spring a surprise by announcing her return. In any case, the elders sweated to convince her to lead the PF project,” said another source.
The sources agreed that Mugabe was uncomfortable with the likely formation of a political party led by Mujuru and was using all available strategies to weaken the opposition.
Recent reports also indicate that Zanu (PF) has been talking with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.
(My Zimbabwe News)