Mujuru sets up rival Zim party
Zimbabwean former vice president Joice Mujuru announced on February 17 that she is forming a new party called 'People First' to challenge president Robert Mugabe's all-powerful Zanu-PF, in a move that could shake up the country's politics.
Mugabe, who turns 92 on February 21, has ruled since independence in 1980 during an era marked by vote-rigging, mass emigration, accusations of human rights abuses and economic decline. He is expected to stand again for election in 2018, but jockeying over his succession has intensified due to his advanced age and speculation about his health.
Mujuru, the widow of Zimbabwe's first post-independence army general, was fired from the government and the ruling Zanu-PF party in December 2014. Her ousting came after a campaign by Mugabe's wife Grace denigrating Mujuru and accusing her of corruption, fomenting party divisions and plotting to topple Mugabe. Many of her allies and perceived sympathisers met a similar fate in a party purge. Mujuru (60) who was replaced as vice president by long-time Mugabe ally Emmerson Mnangagwa, denied all accusations of disloyalty. She was a guerrilla fighter during Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war before rising to become deputy leader in 2004.
A former Zanu-PF stalwart, she earlier served in several cabinet posts under Mugabe and was seen for many years as his favoured choice of successor. Her husband, Solomon Mujuru, died in a mysterious house fire in 2011. Mujuru signalled her intention to form a political party last year by releasing a manifesto that opposed Mugabe's key policies including indigenisation laws that compel foreign firms to cede majority stakes to locals.
Zanu-PF has been riven by factional fights over Mugabe's succession although party figures have sought to downplay any splits. Mnangagwa is now viewed as the likely next president, with Grace Mugabe (50) also a possible candidate.
(The Namibian/ Windhoek)