By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, June 21, 2016 – RESIDENTS in Bulawayo say they are not yet ready to accept Joice Mujuru’s damascene moment following her silence about Zanu PF violence when she was still in government.
The ousted Vice President and now Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader led her entourage to the country’s second largest city on Saturday on a charm offensive which saw her strongly condemn Zanu PF violence in front of hundreds of her followers.
Her rally, held at the historic Stanley Square in Makokoba, marked the beginning of a series of similar events expected to culminate in the launch of ZimPF in Harare at the end of July this year.
Mujuru had surprise guests in People’s Democratic Party secretary-general Godern Moyo and party secretary for policy professor, Philani Moyo.
In her address, the former Mount Darwin legislator wore her heart on her sleeves, with a retraction of her insult she once directed at then Vice President Joshua Nkomo in the late 1990s, calling him senile.
Nkomo, a liberation war icon, still commands a strong sentiment among Zimbabweans, especially in his native Matabeleland province.
Mujuru also implored her Bulawayo believers to accept her rebirth as an opposition politician who was genuinely seeking a return to good governance and human rights in the country.
But interviews done with residents after her rally showed the widowed politician still needed to do more to win more hearts in the MDC-T stronghold.
“The way she addresses people is suspicious,” said one Stanley Nkala.
“She should speak against human rights abuses perpetrated by suspected Zanu PF members.
“She didn’t even speak about the alleged violence perpetrated by the ruling party against her own supporters in Mashonaland Central province and Harare. I think it will take time for her to impress the electorate that she has left Zanu PF.”
Nkala feels the presence of PDP politicians at Mujuru’s rally showed her Bulawayo crowd could have been boosted by curious non ZimPF supporters.
Thubelihle Ncube said Mujuru still seemed too coy to withstand face tough competition on the political arena.
“In as much as we would like to be led by a woman, I don’t think Mujuru has leadership qualities. She looks scared and I think she needs coaching on how to address political rallies,” Ncube said.
Bulawayo-based political analyst Dumisani Nkomo also said Mujuru needed to do a bit more to convince all and sundry she was not part of Zanu PF’s murky history of killings, rape, forced disappearances, among other rights violations.
“By not talking directly about Zanu PF and Mugabe, who people know as the centre of Zimbabwe’s problems, she leaves many people sceptical. She should come clean on that one,” Nkomo said.
Nkomo however praised Mujuru for preaching a united front against her former party.
In her remarks, Mujuru urged fellow competitors within the country’s fragmented opposition to “maximise on our similarities”.
Another Bulawayo based political analyst, Nhlanhla Dube said Mujuru should do more than criticising Mugabe if she fancied being the next occupant at State House.
“The message is what needs to be done to solve the country’s problems and I think this is what will galvanise Zimbabweans,” Dube said.
“Bashing Mugabe and Zanu PF is an over-sexed message and not helping.
“It’s unintelligent. Even a two-year old on the street can bash Mugabe. She is pushing a different narrative. She refuses to be packaged in the same package of opposition.”
Dube said it was too early to judge her capabilities of upstaging her former boss in national elections.
“Her ability to lead and connect with people and their needs is going to be measured in the long run. It’s a marathon,” he said.
“The number of people at her rally being the first meeting must not be made to represent a new wave of an opposition movement. The numbers can represent curiosity or frustration especially from the opposition parties. It’s a reflective of the mobility of political support, mostly, in Bulawayo which has become a traditional place for opposition parties.”
Mujuru was also dismissed by secessionist party, Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) saying she should have come clean on her role in the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide which killed 20 000 civilians because of its significance to people in the restive region.