HARARE - Our chief writer Fungi Kwaramba (FK) spoke to former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who now leads the opposition Zimbabwe People First about her time in Zanu PF and her relationship with President Robert Mugabe. Find below excerpts from the interview.
FK: When you decided not to go to the politburo those last days, what motivated you?
JM: That day I was with Olivia Muchena because it was also the day of our Cabinet meeting and members of the Cabinet were invited because most of us were members of the politburo, so we were invited to go and inspect our tent where the whole thing was going to take place and I said to her, “My dear, I am not going there because I no longer feel like I am part of the whole thing, I am not happy with what is going on and what has gone on.”
So, she advised me, she said if this is how you feel, why don’t you go tell him so that he knows you are no longer there, don’t just disappear.
So I quickly grabbed my notebook and went back to him. Fortunately, he was still in the office and I told him; “Before I go, I have come to you the third time. Whatever you have been saying about me, I did not do it and whatever the case, thank you very much for the times we were together. Thank you for serving under you.
“I know there are so many people who are better than me who could have done a better job but as for tomorrow, you won’t be able to see me I will be at home. If you want me you come for me there. Goodbye” and I left till today I have not met him.
FK: Forming a party is it the right path for a person who once said I will never leave Zanu PF and would your late husband general Solomon Mujuru be happy with such a break from the past?
JM: The general is dead, so why would I consult a dead person (laughs). He knows what is happening. Things are no longer the same. What I am doing now is to save the revolution because I am not here alone.
I am here with the freedom fighters, the masses who participated in the war. I am here with those who were born after independence who are even asking, ‘Is this what you fought for?’
The general would have been the first person to say why are you still there. I am sure he is the happiest person if he is seeing what is happening.
FK: Will there be closure to the death of the general who you recently said was shot?
JM: There won’t be closure because there was never closure. You remember us as the family after the inquest, the local one that was somewhat wishy-washy. We had requested that we be allowed an independent inquest (and that) was declined and that left us with a lot of questions why it was declined. Up to now we are still searching for answers.
Joice Mujuru (centre) addresses a press conference in Harare recently. She is flanked by ex-Zanu PF officials Didymus Mutasa (left) and Rugare Gumbo.
FK: Is it true that you and your husband were plotting as far back as 2007 to topple Mugabe and that a lot of parties were formed in your house?
JM: Can they prove it? That is hearsay, I didn’t know that Simba Makoni was forming his party, I didn’t know that (MDC leader Morgan) Tsvangirai was forming his party and I am sure some people just want to make stories they don’t know about. There are some people who just make things up.
FK: If you had not been hounded out of Zanu PF, would you have left?
JM: I think people are missing the point. All along and you as the media houses you have been covering me where I have been asking questions about things that were taking place like, why are you beating people, why the violence? And I have also done things which were not approved by my principal, you know I lost my job when I started Tokwe-Mukorsi; I started that project without government funding.
Remember it is me who told Mugabe that I am leaving, not because of wanting to save face but because it was an opportunity to leave.
If you remember during the central committee meeting, he asked where are they so that they can speak for themselves, if he wanted he should have told them that Mai Mujuru said she won’t be attending. He wanted to save face but, of course, I would not come out in the open and say he is lying. I was not brought up that way, I am not an argumentative person. I just want to make Zimbabwe a better place for everyone.
FK: Are you a witch?
JM: (laughs) Did you believe that?... those who speak of witches are the biggest ones... I don’t even know about that. I was born a Christian, I think people laughed at such a lie and asked how can a head of State believe such lies. You really occupy such a high post and believe in such things? Such backward thinking? I wouldn’t go by that.
FK: Did you ever think of renewing Zanu PF from within?
JM: The way I thought things could be done is the way our sister parties have done it in Tanzania, Namibia and to some extent South Africa, but why not Zanu PF?
What’s so special, and that would have put us on a much higher pedestal than where they are right now. The country is a laughing stock in the region. Where are we?
We used to be praised for doing good things not anymore, we were number one everyone but which number one can you claim today, number one of gossip, number one of occupying a podium and start shouting about people who are busy developing their countries. Where are the children we spend so much resources developing? The country is going down the drain.
Mujuru (centre) addresses supporters outside a Harare hotel following a press conference. Pic: Freedom Mashava
FK: In the 1980s, we had Gukurahundi and the violence that took place in the country all happened while you were in government, why didn’t you speak?
JM: Those were sad chapters. You heard the president say they were moments of madness and a moment is something that is done once and one day, but when a moment is done for years, it is no longer a moment and when it is repeated it becomes a culture, which is wrong.
Some of us were questioning these things, why are you doing these things to our people and People First is now looking to do things differently to save Zimbabwe.
We have no room for violence, we have no room for hero worship or cults as we see in other parties. We need to respect each other as people.
FK: What role did the general play during Gukurahundi?
JM: He was actually in Pakistan when it all began, he was supposed to be there for a course but he didn’t complete it because of Gukurahundi. He was actually called to come and, he was the only one who could be understood by both groups and he was trusted by both camps. He wasn’t there.
FK: But were you afraid of confronting the president when those things were happening?
JM: It is not because people are afraid, there is a difference between being afraid and being respectful.
When respect goes beyond respect it becomes fear but some end up abusing that respect. I don’t know why people get to that level when they forget about respect and start abusing it.
Coupled with that, our people have been so impoverished that leaving Parliament, you would first of all think of what will I do? How will I have a living when I lose this little income?
If we were to improve the standards in this country, then people even those in Zanu PF will be able to stand up. Our people will make a whole lot of difference. Some leaders are very clever and I am sure that is what Mugabe did to let this country be where it is so that people have little room to manoeuvre so that he has the reins to make you turn right, turn left, use you whenever and wherever he wants you to do whatever he wants. This is not right, this is not life.
You may think we are the only three who are in People First (Mujuru, Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa). No.
People are full in Parliament. They are the majority who are saying push, why would people get to such a level when you can have your own arrangements that can be done nicely and smoothly without any problems.
Why would you be afraid of being relieved of your duties, go to the farm and enjoy your vazukurus (grandchildren).
I am telling you, the 12-plus months I have not been in government are the best times I ever had since I came back from the war. The best, I have done everything for my family, things I never did.
FK: How does it feel to be in the opposition?
JM: People are happy that there is an alternative party that can embrace the two warring factions into one.
We have Zanu PF, MDC and those who have not voted before. It has never happened in this country. Hearing a Zipra guy saying you are the only one who can get us together it’s humbling and when I go to the people, there will be commotion.
We will be going there and mine is not going to be rocket science solution. It’s just asking what do you want, and we are ready to negotiate so that people find solutions.
FK: In the event that you are elected or an opposition party wins, would the military have a say?
JM: The military is not supposed to be in politics and what we have also decided to do is to remind them that, and don’t forget I come from the military that is my background, so we talk, so you might think you are sending them to do something they will enjoy, no they won’t.
They don’t want to be in politics and if they want they can be (Solomon) Mujuru or Gava (Vitalis Zvinavashe) or (Josiah) Tungamirai, who were part of us in the politburo but those who are still there have never been political, they obey orders and if you keep them in the barracks they will remain there because that is what they want.
FK: When you launched your party, you spoke about a land audit yet you have many farms and evicted a white farmer from Beatrice.
JM: Ahhh, I lost two farms which I had bought with my husband and I was given one which I no longer have title to.
I don’t have title deeds to that farm in Beatrice but I have invested in that farm and people lie, they say I have so many farms. I never lined up for a farm not even one, but some people just love to talk, they are great liars.
FK: Reports also indicate that the general had interests in several companies and his estate is worth millions.
JM: I wish. You could be seeing the millions oozing, No, he didn’t.
FK: There is this issue of the war victims compensation fund how much did you claim in disability?
JM: We as war veterans were supposed to have been given money, it came to me and I returned it.
It was around $300 000 (Zim-dollar). I did not have any money from that fund, it was assigned to me and I returned it, because I am not a thief.
FK: You spent so many years close to the president what did you learn from him?
JM: He is someone who is persistent, he is very serious with his programmes, he doesn’t want one beating about the bush and you can have a marathon meeting because he is a thorough person.
But one thing is he will pursue one thing and agree on it but don’t be surprised if he does something else tomorrow.
Good example is when I approached him on October 22, 2014 and he said the things you want to talk about we will talk when Amai (Grace) comes back.
Two days later, he was addressing a purported demonstration with clean and glossy papers printed “down with 10 percent” and I asked; we agreed that we are going to talk about these things, why didn’t you tell me that was being said about me? When he came back to the politburo, he pretended that nothing had happened.
I went to ask him about word that I wanted to kill him and he said I have been told by the MID (military intelligence) and I told him that those people are after destroying you and Zanu PF. And I told him I never even thought about that. This is the type of man he is.
FK: Why is he still hanging on to power? Is it because there are no competent people to succeed him?
JM: He loves power, there are people like that. He loves power.
FK: Does he have a succession plan?
JM: Maybe he has it in his pocket . . . during my 10 years as his deputy, he never said anything referring to me or anyone, I don’t know about others if they were promised anything, and I don’t even think he ever promised anyone.
FK: There are some who think Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa will succeed him?
JM: Good luck to him. I am even saluting him even before that so that I would have shown my respect.