SUNDAY TIMES - Mujuru launches new political party to challenge Mugabe
54.144.44.9, 54.144.44.9, 127.0.0.1
Sunday Times Best of International By MacDonald Dzirutwe, 2016-03-01

Mujuru launches new political party to challenge Mugabe

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses the ZANU-PF party's top decision making body, the Politburo, in the capital Harare, in this February 10, 2016 file photo.
Image: PHILIMON BULAWAYO REUTERS

Zimbabwe's former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was President Robert Mugabe's long time deputy until she was fired in 2014, said on Tuesday she had launched a new political party to challenge the veteran leader.

Mujuru, who was Mugabe's deputy for a decade and seen as the likely successor to the 92-year-old ruler, was removed from her ruling ZANU-PF party and government posts on charges she led a "treacherous cabal" to oust Mugabe from power.

In her first public address since her fall from grace in Dec. 2014, the 60-year-old Mujuru told reporters that she had formed a new political party.

Zimbabwe's former vice-president Joice Mujuru (R) and Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa (L). File photo Image: AFP JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

"Today we confirm our existence as a viable home grown political party. Zimbabwe People First is here," Mujuru told a news conference to cheers and ululation from supporters.

"We are not fighting one man but a system, that system which is unjust," said Mujuru.

At least four former cabinet ministers who were fired by Mugabe were at the launch of Mujuru's party, which was also attended by Western diplomats.

It is not yet clear how big Mujuru's support is and whether it would be enough to loosen Mugabe's tight grip on power.

After being fired from her party and government posts, Mujuru was rarely seen in public, resorting to issuing newspaper statements, that hinted at a future challenge to Mugabe.

Crucially for Mujuru, she still enjoys support from some of her comrades who hold senior positions in the military, according to her close aides. The military has provided the muscle to Mugabe's 36-year rule.

When firing Mujuru in 2014, Mugabe made the point that some of his top security chiefs were no longer giving him crucial security briefs, instead they were reporting to Mujuru.

- Reuters