The formation of the Zimbabwe People First party led by Joice Mujuru has certainly sent shivers across the political terrain in the country.
Political hawks and cyber bullies sympathetic to the splintering and dying Zanu PF and those aligned to some jolted and rapidly deserted political outfits, have responded by concocting, and at times exhuming, a battery of fabricated lies and fables to malign the character of Mujuru.
The lies, now repeated with astonishing rapidity to counter the exponential growth of her support base in both the rural and urban electoral districts, take a new twist every day in some desperate attempt to soil the impeccable record and character of this affable, astute, selfless and principled former guerrilla war leader who has dedicated her life to the fight for the total emancipation and empowerment of her people.
The attacks have been aimed at Mujuru the freedom fighter, Mujuru the politician, Mujuru the mother and Mujuru the widow of Solomon, one of the wisest and most sophisticated military brains behind the prosecution of this country’s liberation war.
While the attacks are unjustified, reckless and at times defamatory, that they are based on ignorance and driven by malice and political skulduggery has prompted me to write this account.
Like the biblical Luke, having followed the events closely for some time past, I have decided to write, for you most excellent reader, a more accurate account of the things that Mujuru is accused of, “that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” (Luke 1:4).
I will begin with the most frequent allegation that Mujuru is corrupt and was involved in the looting of the war victims’ compensation fund. She did not.
She did not even want to. She was the only person who realised the dishonest nature with which the disability assessment was being done and when she realised the late Chenjerai Hunzvi had contrived a 55 percentage point disability on her in her absence, she saw the criminality of accepting the compensation and when it came, she returned the full amount of $390 000.
She was even chided by the likes of Edgar Tekere for refusing to take the money insinuating that her decision to return it was indicative of the trauma-induced mental instability that affected most war veterans.
Tekere thought that “she behaved very funny” (by returning the money) and that he “didn’t know why she suddenly feels embarrassed that she got the money” and opined that “perhaps it’s one of the psychiatric cases that needed attention because of the trauma she went through during the war.” (Herald, September 9, 1997, Day 14 Chidyausiku Commission of Inquiry into the administration of the War Victims Compensation Fund).
It is trite to mention here that Mujuru had no qualms with the payment of compensation to war victims but had problems with the criminal nature of the disability assessments which presumed that some comrades, then active members of the army, had 99 percent disability.
Similar to the above allegation of corruption are claims that Mujuru was heavily involved in the looting of diamonds to an extent she had vast fields in the Chiadzwa area where she would transport countless 30-tonne trucks of conglomerate for processing at her house in Harare.
It is interesting that, like the diesel n’anga claims in Chinhoyi, these rumours got the ear of President Robert Mugabe and he set out an inter-ministerial team to investigate the allegations that Mujuru had an area where she mined alluvial diamonds and the place was referred to as “KwaMai Mujuru.”
The inter-ministerial team, which comprised Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Obert Mpofu and Didymus Mutasa, found out an interesting story which started when villagers of Cashel Valley, an agricultural settlement that Mujuru helped with irrigation equipment and organised a market for in the United Kingdom, used to boast to their Chiadzwa neighbours before the discovery of diamonds in the area.
The horticulturists who then, thanks to Mujuru, were earning foreign currency out of their produce would be very liquid and boast at local beer-halls that they were moneyed and able to drink clear beer, courtesy of Mujuru.
They would often tease their Chiadzwa neighbours about their inability to buy themselves beer because they did not have “ChiMujuru chavo” (they did not have their own Mujuru-initiated project to give them money).
Tables turned when diamonds were discovered in the Chiadzwa area and the Chiadzwa villagers began to earn, albeit illegally, their own foreign currency from the diamonds that had suddenly sprung to the surface.
They now boasted, to their Cashel Valley counterparts, that they now had their own “Churu chaMai Mujuru” (Mujuru’s anthill) from which they were drawing diamonds which they exchanged for foreign currency.
So that is how the story about Mujuru and vast diamond fields started prompting Mugabe, as in the Chinhoyi diesel case, to set out a team of Cabinet ministers to investigate the allegations.
I have also heard allegations that Mujuru was part of Mugabe’s administration and for 35 years did nothing to change the livelihoods of the generality of the people of Zimbabwe.
This is not based on facts but on some amorphous fable that presumes Mugabe is not a dictator but a democrat who goes by majority decisions in Cabinet, Parliament and other arms of government.
It is true that there is something called collective responsibility and Mujuru cannot run away from it but the reality also is that Mugabe is a dictator, one centre of power and has often acted unilaterally in key moments that have shaped the history of this country and the direction our economy has taken.
Vintage Mugabe is a typical patriarchal bully who has no time for other people’s opinions, worse if they are women.
He also acted unilaterally when he sent our soldiers to take part in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had devastating effects on the economy of our country.
And when he felt like he was fed up with the British, he decided, on his own, to withdraw Zimbabwe’s membership from the Commonwealth among a myriad of other decisions he has unilaterally made for the country.
To then accuse his deputies of being complicit is being blind to political facts on Mugabe’s style of leadership.
It is also prudent to appreciate Mujuru was not a silent accomplice to Mugabe’s excesses, but an active agent of change from within the dictatorship.
It is imperative to enter into Mujuru’s political world and schemata and appreciate her understanding that the dictatorial system of governance in the country was hinged on one man therefore to dislodge the system easily, one had to work out a plan to remove Mugabe through existent party structures at congress.
For Mujuru to effectively do this, she needed to work out the party structures, entrench herself and build her own support base within the party to effect leadership renewal that was not only imperative but very invaluable if our economic fortunes had to change.
The process did not only need her to work on the party structures, but to work on herself as well.
She needed to upgrade herself academically and the choice of her academic discipline (strategic management) bears testimony to a woman who knew exactly what she wanted.
Mujuru, however, did not just devote her time to pursue academics and leadership renewal in the party but embarked on several projects that changed people’s lives, including several irrigation projects during her tenure as Rural Resources and Water Development minister.
The Cashel Valley example that I gave earlier is one such case while the Tokwe-Mukorsi project which she almost got fired for is another.
Mujuru kick-started the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam project without Cabinet approval after she had realised, towards the end of one financial year during her tenure as Rural Resources and Water Development minister, that she had excess funds in her vault that could set the project in motion.
For her people-centred decision, Mujuru almost lost her job when it came to Mugabe’s ears that she had started the project without his approval.
So dedicated was Mujuru to community development projects that the then Matabeleland North governor Welshman Mabhena, feared that if Mujuru did not retain her position as Rural Resources and Water Development minister after the 2000 general elections “the Gwayi-Shangani Dam project which she spearheaded could be delayed further” (Herald, April 15, 2000).
Retired politician Cephas Msipa was also full of praise for Mujuru when she was elected vice president of Zanu PF.
The Chronicle of December 9, 2004 quoted the veteran politician as saying, “It was no accident that she got where she is now. She has the capability to work with people and to lead people.”
Msipa also said that it was during Mujuru’s tenure as Water Development minister that the Mundi-Mataga project in Mberengwa was finally completed.
Msipa lauded Mujuru for the successful completion of the project, adding that “we are proud of Mundi-Mataga, our little Kariba. It’s something we attribute to her.”
Apart from allegations of not doing anything to upgrade the lives of the generality of Zimbabweans, Mujuru is often accused of not condemning political violence during her time in Zanu PF. Again, this is not based on facts.
It is a malicious allegation being propagated by agents of the regime, mostly on social networks to try and paint a picture which depicts Mujuru as being no better than Mugabe in order to alienate former opposition supporters from the People First leader.
Mujuru is on record, several times chiding Zanu PF youths against unleashing violence on political opponents.
At a rally in Hwange where she was thanking the people of Matabeleland North for supporting her nomination for the post of vice president of Zanu PF in 2004, Mujuru spoke about her non-violent character which she said was not going to embarrass those that had chosen her to lead them.
She said, “I can assure you that my character will not tarnish your image, I will not embarrass you.”
And then she appealed to the youths to desist from political violence ahead of general elections which were slated for March 31, 2005. (Chronicle, January 31, 2005).
At a rally in Mt Darwin on May 28, 2008, Mujuru lashed out at the youths of the area for their role in political violence.
“Who sent you to kill people, to hurt and cripple others? Short sleeve (Chopping off of greater part of the arm), long sleeve, (chopping off of wrists) where is that coming from?”, she asked angrily.
She went on to ask, “I am number two, how come I don’t know about that directive to kill people for votes?”
“That should stop because if you kill for Zanu-PF, when the spirits of those you kill want to avenge they will come to your family not Zanu-PF,” she said in apparent anger after 12 people were brutally killed in acts of violence in the run-up to the controversial presidential run-off following the disputed March 29 2008 harmonised elections.