FORMER vice-president Joice Mujuru says she bitterly feels President Robert Mugabe used and dumped her from her senior positions in Zanu PF and government after loyally serving for 42 years, having started working for the ruling party in the middle of a fierce liberation war at a tender age of 17.
Mujuru — who has kept stoic silence after she was unceremoniously booted out of the Zanu PF presidium and state vice-presidency following turmoil which rocked the party ahead of its controversial congress last December — told the Zimbabwe Independent this week she feels betrayed by Mugabe because of how far back they came from and the way she was treated.
Mujuru also feels used and abused by Mugabe, his wife Grace and their supporters who have called her names and hounded her out of her positions amid a political storm and accusations of corruption as well as assassination plots she vehemently denies.
Speaking exclusively to the Independent, Mujuru said she and her husband the late retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru backed Mugabe and other senior party members who arrived in Mozambique from 1975 onwards from prison to intensify the liberation war against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime.
“We (together with Solomon, her late husband who was a retired army commander) and others were used as their ladder to the top and now we have been discarded like scrubs (cleaning items),” Mujuru said.
“But I don’t feel hurt by the persistent attacks directed at me by both President Mugabe and his wife because the person they are describing is not me. Actually, I feel embarrassed on their behalf because that is not the way I was brought up.”
Mujuru said she is, however, pained by the way Mugabe and others are treating her after her sacrifices to liberate the country and service in the government.
“I crossed into Mozambique in 1973 to join the war and people like President Mugabe, Edgar Tekere and Oppah Muchinguri later came in 1975 to find us at the front. Everyone knows this, including VaMugabe. The General (Mujuru) asked me to help people like Muchinguri because she did not want to be with us in the camps,” she said.
Despite that Mugabe ganged up with his wife and supporters to attack and abuse her at the height of Zanu PF’s vicious succession battle, Mujuru says she bears no grudge against them and those who ascended at her expense.
Mujuru was replaced as vice-president by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Her allies were ruthlessly purged from party structures and government. The witch-hunts continue unabated.
“I have no hard feelings about what they (Mugabe and others) did to be at the top. God made it so … God is the reason why even in pain I smile, in confusion I understand, in betrayal I trust and in fear I continue to fight,” Mujuru said.
Mujuru’s allies, former Zanu PF heavyweights Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, however, say Mugabe, Mnangagwa and others rose through blatant subversion of the party constitution and related processes. They are challenging the legality of the Zanu PF congress and its resolutions in court.
Asked what her future political plans are and if she would contest in the next presidential elections in 2018 since many in Zanu PF say she has a huge social base and following, Mujuru said: “Only God knows. I am not losing any sleep over that. Even President Mugabe always says that leaders come from the people.”
After joining the struggle as a teenager and later becoming a cabinet minister at Independence in 1980 until last year when she was unceremoniously fired under a litany of accusations, Mujuru says she did not deserve the brutal attacks and abuse she has been viciously subjected to.
When Mugabe and the likes of Tekere arrived in Mozambique in 1975, she was one of the combatants who helped them settle in amid serious resistance from senior Zanla High command figures led by Wilfred Mhanda.
Mujuru’s husband played a decisive role in enabling Mugabe to take control of Zanla troops and camps as well as the party which at the time was divided and locked in internal strife in an explosive way.
In his book, Dzino: Memories of a Freedom Fighter, Mhanda explicitly narrates how General Mujuru “sold out” so that Mugabe could take over.
“Without that historical ‘sell out’ in Beira, Mozambique, in January 1977, Mugabe and the old nationalist guard might have been relegated to the dustbin of history in favour of Machingura and his Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) ‘revolutionaries’, hardly three years before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980,” reads part of the book.
It was also General Mujuru’s intervention again in 1978 that saved the day not only for Mugabe and the old nationalist guard, but also for Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara. This was during the purported “coup” attempt led by Joseph Taderera which subsequently implicated the former Dare ReChimurenga members, namely Rugare Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi and Kumbirai Kangai.
Mujuru says she feels seriously let down by Mugabe whom she did not only support in his ascendancy to the top, but also respected as a father figure and someone who helped her to rise from being a barely literate ex-combatant to a cabinet minister, and later vice-president before her ignominious expulsion.
Last year, Chrispen Mataire, a senior veteran of the liberation struggle who was part of Mhanda group that was barricaded in dungeons until Independence for opposing Mugabe, wrote in the Independent that by 1975 Mujuru was already third in command at Chibavava-Toronga camp where Mugabe and other officials were first introduced to the troops.
When Mugabe and Tekere arrived in Mozambique, they were initially quarantined because Zanla commanders and even the late Mozambican president Samora Machel were suspicious of them. Samora wanted senior Zanla commanders to take over the struggle like he did with Frelimo to become civilian leaders after Independence.
Upon her controversial entrance into mainstream politics during her countrywide “meet-the-people rallies” last year, Grace claimed, among other stinging allegations, Mujuru was corrupt, extorted companies and wanted to assassinate Mugabe.
However, Mujuru this week again intensely denied the allegations, saying they were false.
“I have nothing to do with all those companies. They are just being targeted for nothing. Zanu PF is chasing shadows and groping in the dark for anything they can use to attack and bring me down,” she said.
Mujuru says despite all the attacks, she remains loyal to Zanu PF as she served the party since she was a teenager and was ready to defend herself before its relevant structures or in any court of law so long as due process is followed.
Commenting her relations with Grace and Muchinguri, the main architects of her dramatic downfall, Mujuru said: “I have nothing in common with her (Grace),” adding, “Muchinguri knows the role I played in her life to be where she is.”
Asked what was happening on her alleged corruption investigations, Mujuru said only her accusers and indicters should be able to answer that.
“They (Mugabe and Zanu PF) should have an answer to that question. Why would they be scared of an ordinary, simple widow like me to whom they can say whatever they want when they want to?” she said.