First impressions of People First

Rugare Gumbo

Rugare Gumbo

Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Former Vice President Joice Mujuru has finally come out of the cocoon and she addressed her maiden Press conference as the leader of an outfit called Zimbabwe People First, or simply, People First, on Tuesday.

She held her presser at Harare’s Meikles Hotel, which was attended by a lot of individuals and interests from spectators outside the hotel, civic society, diplomats to the media.

In her haul were people that are supposed to form the core of the political party, who are former members of the ruling Zanu-PF party and were either expelled or fell by the wayside in the last couple of years. We shall attempt to profile these individuals. But it was supposed to be a Joice Mujuru show — she was the centre of attraction.

Addressing her first media conference was a significant and symbolic step, perhaps to be dwarfed only by an inaugural congress or some kind of convention which may come in the next few weeks and months. Since her acrimonious ejection from Zanu-PF, the former Zanu-PF second secretary and widow of General Solomon Mujuru had kept her silence, save for an occasional statement or two in the private media and the Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (BUILD) “manifesto” she published in the same private media in September last year.

In the interim, she was spoken on her behalf largely by Mr Rugare Gumbo, another Zanu-PF ejectee and counterpart, Didymus Mutasa.

It was a fortnight ago when she finally opened up to the pirate radio station Voice of America’s Studio7 and the Sunday Times of the UK (that should be symbolic isn’t, it?) On Tuesday, she addressed local and international media and largely rehashed the BUILD manifesto and talked about investment climate in the country, corruption, civil servants, farm ownership, rejoining the Commonwealth and prospects for a coalition with the other opposition parties.

Many analysts, pundits and students of political science are looking at ways to frame the new party, to understand it and predict the future of Zimbabwe’s politics especially in light of 2018, the election year that is just on the horizon. There are first impressions that People First has made:

Thieves First

We are happy that this is probably the first time this is mentioned, but the reader will now know that the name “People First” may actually have come from Zanu-PF’s resolutions at the 14th Annual People’s Conference, which, discussing the State of the Party, recognised that “…Zanu-PF belongs to the people and, as such, puts the people first . . .”

And never mind about Morgan Tsvangirai’s former aide Maxwell Shumba who claimed to have registered a party in the same name. The coinage is to all intents and purposes Zanu-PF’s and this highlights the extent to which the new party is just but a fake Zanu-PF — perceivably.

This moral burden has weighed on the proponents of People First so much so that at some point they were compelled to label themselves as “the original Zanu-PF”.

It is only fakes that will feel the need to validate themselves as such.

Mujuru was forced to defend her band on Tuesday stating: “Let me now address a certain level of scepticism which is bound to be directed at ZPF by some stakeholders, that scepticism that you were in ZANU-PF for many years, why should we believe that you will transform this country?

“My simple answer is that People First is a new entity with new values and followers from every political party in Zimbabwe including those that have never joined any political party before.”

The truth of the matter is that these are people who were comfortable in Zanu-PF and only left because they were chucked out. The one attribute that these people would like to flaunt, or more specifically sell at this point, is that People First will be a “reformed” Zanu-PF, the desirability or acceptability of which remains dubious.

But many honest people will know that Mujuru is not the best person to talk about rooting out corruption or multiple farm ownership when she is generally described as a corrupt, greedy, deal-cutting individual.

Bitter First, Shona First

That the People First comprises disgruntled, rejected and ejected people from Zanu-PF is a trite point to make.

In fact, Mujuru should have rallied all these people earlier but she kept the silence she is now telling us was strategic as she needed to consult. The truth of the matter is that the people from the districts and provinces that were purged because of her association in the larger plot to unseat President Mugabe looked up to her before, during and after their removal from the party.

What happened on Tuesday was a feeble attempt to raise hopes — if ever people can have faith in her. But the most shocking part of the core team and personae around Mujuru, what appears to be a deliberate move to surround herself with Shona speaking people, or people commonly associated with all other provinces except Midlands and Matabeleland.

The top faces seen at the Press conference include Dzikamai Mavhaire, Rugare Gumbo, Didymus Mutasa, former ambassadors Agrippa Mutambara and John Mvundura, David Butau, Claudius Makova, Retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi, Bright Matonga, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Sylvester Nguni, Jealous Mawarire, Ibbo Mandaza, Elliot Kasu. There you go, that’s the misnomer of People First!

One of too many

It is surprising that some sections of the media announce her holding of a Press conference as a grand entry — the umpteenth time that the phrase has been used, nay abused. If truth be told, this was an ordinary day on the Zimbabwean political scene where parties are formed everyday and at the last count there were over 20 registered political parties in Zimbabwe.

They also break up every day, which is why President Mugabe last week in Masvingo laughed off the prospects of People First, predicting there would be a series of People-something parties.

It remains a clear and present possibility, especially for a group of people that are only joined by bitterness rather than ideology and any organic sentiment and process. Thus Mujuru sounded ever so hollow when she said: “Today is a historic day. Today we present ourselves to you in humility and the humbling comfort of the people’s support. This is a day of great significance in our country’s political history. Today we confirm our existence or the existence of a viable home-grown inclusive political party. It is now public knowledge that the Zimbabwe People First is here.”

Well, not much of a surprise there!

A stuttering start,

Rugare’s rumination

Many of those that followed the address will agree that this was not a convincing outing for she who would be President of the Republic. She was a bunch of nerves, stuttering and tripping as she hardly took her eyes off the prepared script.

She failed to distinguish between “gender” and “agenda”. She failed to distinguish between “stipulate” and “stimulate” and she huffed and puffed on. The PF leader had clearly not rehearsed for the show and she was exposed and there is no better way to illustrate that than the anxiety that was registered on the person of Rugare Gumbo, who the cameras caught more than one time with his hands clasped together as if in supplication and prayer.

By the way, Gumbo and Mutasa are the think-tanks of the new party and clearly the anxieties of the former are totally understandable in that context.

The deed had to be done but Mujuru was clearly struggling. Going forward, the political landscape will be interesting — and this is not self contradictory — people will be waiting to see the real politicians in People First, not a bunch of losers brought together by bitterness and seeking to expropriate the glory of their former party. People First is open to going to bed with existing parties in a coalition, which seems to excite some quarters.

If they amount to anything, the better for our democracy.

And if they manage to shake Zanu-PF from its current mindless fratricide, it will be even better!

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  • Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof)

    The overvalued ejectees from the ruling ,ZANU PF , will soon find the political landscape not an easy park walk, despite naive expectations from all and sundry in the neo colonial opposition politics. Zimbabweans are fully enlightened on the hardships they face economically, in terms of the causality equation. The new political outfit being led by a person loved by those who imposed sanctions speaks volumes about the political heart of such a leader, who was not listed as a sanctioned person among the ZANU PF leaders, during her VP tenure. Informed Zimbabweans ask why she was not listed like the stinking stooge Tsvangirai? To stink as as stooge is not an advantage in Zimbabwe politics. Sanctions were imposed to make people suffer and give the opposition stooges cheap political ammunition against ZANU PF. We say nada , nada to stooge leadership in Zimbabwe.

    • Dr Sithole

      Whilst you are singing nada nada nada and quick to vilify ZPF, you should be equally ashamed of the ruling party that always pretends and operate in reactive mode on fundamental issues. Case in point, there is the hullabaloo about diamonds and looting, when it is in the public arena that one of the people closest to the shenanigans at Chiadzwa is known to be very close to the first family, as the former pilot. ZanuPF, in its wisdom, or lack of it, created devious ways of ensuring that the proceeds from diamonds do not get to the national coffers under the GNU. The intent was to punish Biti and the opposition, but the very systems they created became too sophisticated for ZanuPF itself…hezvo nhasi kwavekutinyaudza about diamond looting, nothing new here. Back to your diatribe, much as you might try and condemn the ZPF, they learnt whatever you accuse them of from ZANUPF. On sanctions, right now it is only the first family that is still under sanctions list, so are you telling us that all ZANUPF members (Ministers and ordinary card-carrying members like you) are sellouts simply because you are not on the list? Following your own logic, you are the number one sellout and are no different from the very ZPF people you are trying (very hard) to condemn. By the way, why should it worry or bother ZanuPF that the former members formed their own outfit. Such interest actually indicates that ZanuPF might be panicking. If these ZPF guys were nonentities as you want us to believe, this paper would not have ordinarily given a lot of space covering ZPF. Whether they fail or succeed, its up to the people of Zimbabwe, and in any democratic system, people have a right to belong and associate. Hezvo the ruling party is going through the toughest moments in its history and leaving many causalities in its wake…the revolutionary party is eating its children. Rather focus on that. Herald, you have the discretionary prerogative, however, in the interest of fairness, I challenge you to publish this response.

    • Dr Sithole

      And the ZanuPF establishment were some of the biggest beneficiairies of the looted diamonds, including Defence college for over $100 million dollars built by the Chinese. Nothing is for free in this world…you can spew all your blubber about ZPF being sellouts, how about a whole ruling party that went to sleep and entered into a partnership with the yellow friends from the East, and unsurprisingly, Anjin is the only company operating in Chiadzwa that never has its books and financials shared or scrutinised. So much for looking East. If anything, the real sellout is the ruling party and its functionaries governing on behalf of the people. What a sorry state…and this fake ‘Prof’ has temerity to call others sellouts. What an epic fail.

    • Dr Sithole

      All this nonsense you write, you are lucky the Herald editorial chickened out from publishing my full responses to your diatribe. Hapana zvitsva apa, you are a fake Prof for that matter, hiding under a pen-name like your friend Manheru, what a loser.

      • Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof)

        All your neo colonial out-pouring over my posting in defence of political stooges will not enhance the political fortunes of the Zany People Foolish. Only foolish leaders would denounce their principles after being booted from a party. Principles on the land issue should remain among the ZANU PF ejectees now leading your neo colonial ZPF if they are worth any political salt. More so for Dr Mujoy, who is deriving joy from out land reform. I will not dwell on your rantings over the diamonds issue because you are informed by your ignorance. Suffice to educate you that gone are the days of looters keeping their loot in foreign banks like Mobutu, because of the new international rules to control terrorist funding. Any looting would be easily exposed today in foreign banks. If there are any looters with huge funds in our local banks , that would mitigate our liquidity deficit. Please don`t parrot cheap propaganda against ZANU PF leaders because facts are not kind against your ignorance. Come 2018 ZANU PF will win again to your chagrin. The current political dynamics in our revolutionary party and necessary cleansing is beyond your understanding ,thereby causing you to smile foolishly in false anticipations, reminiscent of Baba Jukwa defunct project! I need hardly rest my case before advising you come to me for free lectures from my academic forehead , lest you go to hell before being subjected to proper intellectual cleansing! You love Glass, without G and take away l and thats what you are, unforunately!

    • Kuta Kinte

      Agreed. All real ZANU-PF supporters will never cross the bridge to join anyone who would want to reverse the land reform program, first and foremost. Secondly, true current ZANU-PF supporters, many as they are, will never want to be associated with anyone who dines with the enemy of the party and therefore the enemy of Zimbabwe – the colonialist – never.

  • Dr Newton Galileo Einsten

    This analysis says exactly what I have always regarded as our major problem. We think eloquence in the Queen’s language and flamboyance are the hallmarks of success. If that were the case many Presidents in Africa and other non-English speaking countries , some very successful , would be counted not. How many of us have mis-read or mis-pronounced some words. How many eminent Presidents have struggled to read numbers? This is a shallow piece meant to compare JTR against the affable and highly competent English speaking and reading RGM ( an undisputed scholar) , but is that the point really. We had a very affable RBZ governor once , twice or thrice as affable as the current one but those that know the two will tell you that the two are miles apart technically , the latter outshining the former. SO expectations of fluency and eloquence in the Queen’s language from an aspiring President, relative to a sitting President who has spoken countless tmes at many fora over a whooping period of 36 years , is not only myopic but outright misplaced. Equally disturbing is the fact that eloquence and fluency has been mistaken for intelligence. That needs serious correction.

  • Peter Musa

    Kakakata Tsvangirai dhonza uri mutanda we bhasikoro iwe

  • Zimba 1

    Tichaona, you can’t pull a tribal card and hope people will buy your argument. It’s people like you who have an oversized ego, who think that a certain tribe is superior to another–the reason why your sponsors’ party has had a people from one tribe in powerful positions–who perperuates tribal, ethnic tensions in our beloved country. In fact, people like you must be shot!

    This article is hogwash–an attempt to discredit the indiscreditable. Argue about policy and what’s in it for the Zimbabwean people.