HARARE - The battle for political supremacy in the country ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections is getting hotter, with former Vice President Joice Mujuru finally moving to register her People First movement with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
An elated People First spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, told the Daily News yesterday that the outfit, which has thus far operated as the “original” Zanu PF formation that used the slogan People First, would be formally registered as People First next week.
The party’s motto would be Tiri Vavaki, Vavaki veZimbabwe (We are builders, Builders of Zimbabwe) — with the Ndebele equivalent also to be finalised this week.
Gumbo said the movement was now “ready to take off” following the completion by its legal department of the party’s constitution, which had paved the way for its registration with the Zec.
The party’s official launch would follow soon afterwards, culminating in the holding of its inaugural elective congress thereafter.
“We are organising that (Zec registration) so that the launch can be held soon, with all our people and structures up to speed with the constitution of the party, so that the congress is held in an orderly manner.
“To all intents and purposes, we are done with the constitution and our lawyers are now just tying up the loose ends.
“We are formalising our slogan Tiri Vavaki, Vavaki veZimbabwe which will be accompanied by its Ndebele version, and after registration we will have the official launch of the party and subsequently, the congress,” Gumbo said.
Other party insiders who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the decision to name the party People First had come after “lengthy and exhaustive” discussions.
“There were initially strong suggestions that the party’s name be Zanu People First, but later it was felt that using that name would confuse supporters who are now used to just People First, and also bring with it the baggage of the post-congress Zanu PF.
“It was later agreed that the party would be registered next week simply as People First, thereby also helping to avoid unnecessary confusion and confrontation with Zanu PF over the name, which would have worked in their favour,” one of the reliable sources said.
Another official said there had been unanimous agreement to register the party with Zec, even though there was apparently no law in Zimbabwe that compelled political parties to register in order to exist legally.
“The only time registration is obligatory is during elections when a party wants to contest by fielding a candidate since a contender is required by law to be proposed and endorsed by a certain number of registered voters a constituency and has to pay a candidacy deposit, which is returned if he or she gets a certain stipulated threshold of valid votes cast.
“Nevertheless, by registering our party now, we want to put a marker on the ground that we are serious and that it is now truly game on,” the source said.
Since their ouster from the warring post-congress Zanu PF on untested allegations of plotting to oust and assassinate President Robert Mugabe, Mujuru and her allies made up of mainly disaffected liberation struggle stalwarts have been making serious efforts to challenge the ruling party ahead of 2018.
This week’s developments will put paid to the damaging speculation of the past year that Mujuru no longer had appetite for high political office after she kept both her supporters and foes alike guessing as to where she was going by appearing to procrastinate about her association with People First — which is widely predicted to give Zanu PF a run for its money in 2018.
The People First developments of this week may also help to explain why the panicky ruling party is moving ruthlessly to rid itself of all the remaining perceived supporters of Mujuru from within its ranks, including dozens of sitting MPs.
Last week, Zanu PF recalled Guruve South MP Chriswell Mutematsaka from Parliament for allegedly flirting with Mujuru.
Reports also suggest that four more ruling party legislators currently serving lengthy suspensions — Uzumba MP Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, his Maramba Pfungwe counterpart Washington Musvaire, Chikomba Central’s Felix Mhona and Tendayi Makunde of Murehwa North — will be booted out from the ruling party in the next few weeks.
And with the prospects Mujuru joining forces with former prime minister in the government of national unity, Morgan Tsvangirai, looking promising, observers say this is all raising the political stakes ahead of 2018.
In the meantime, Mujuru’s supporters got a taste of the violent nature of Zimbabwean politics last week after one of its supporters’ home was burnt down by suspected Zanu PF followers.