HARARE – Former Vice President Joice Mujuru says she “regrets” that she had not spoken out earlier against the excesses of President Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF and the government while she was still in the ruling party.
Addressing civil society organisations in Bulawayo last week, Mujuru also laid the blame for the post-independence Gukurahundi massacres of an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands on Mugabe.
Moving to deflect allegations that her revered late husband, Solomon — who was army commander at the time — had played a part in the killings, Mujuru said it was Mugabe who could not escape scrutiny on the matter as he was the one in charge and was allegedly hellbent on settling political scores with the late Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo.
“It is difficult for people to say Solomon (Mujuru) commanded the Fifth Brigade (which carried out the killings) because it was not part of the army. It was a separate unit created altogether by Mugabe. This is why it is difficult to pin this on Mujuru,” she asserted.
“The head of government is the one who knows what programmes he wants to run and which ones he wants to work with. So, the head of State should know,” she added.
Revealing for the first time that Mugabe always kept a tight lid on security issues, Mujuru said even though she was a minister during the Gukurahundi era, she was never privy to the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres.
The interim leader of the fledgling Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, who was hounded out of Zanu PF on a litany of untested allegations ranging from corruption to witchcraft and trying to assassinate Mugabe, said her problems with her erstwhile comrades in the deeply-divided ruling party began when she finally decided to speak her mind.
She also said when she was under pressure in the ruling party, she had not only “grabbed the opportunity and chance to leave the party” but also found her full voice.
“In a way, I took too long to make a decision and at the same time there were people who were expecting me as a mother to have taken a stance … the only thing I can say is I am sorry.
“I should have done more. I should have just walked away instead of being silent. Even in a marriage, you say this is my last child but then you get surprised that you are pregnant again.
“But after a while, you will say enough is enough, this is the right time that people should know who Joice is. Maybe I was a lone voice, maybe my voice was being drowned. This is now the time for me to be heard,” Mujuru said.
Comparing herself to the biblical Saul, Mujuru said it was understandable that some people were finding it hard to believe her, considering the lofty positions she had held and had been given by Mugabe before their fallout.
“I am not going to say I wasn’t part of the system … if the Bible did not carry a lot of Saul stories a lot of us would go to hell.
“But there are a lot of lessons that we learn from him. This is what I want to tell Zimbabweans, I am the Saul that the Bible is talking about,” she said.
Mujuru also told her audience that if she were to be voted into power next year, she would let justice take its course and would not protect anyone who had dirty hands, as her own hands were clean.
“We are not going to protect anyone. That’s why people will then find Mai Mujuru not being there to say I lifted an axe and chopped someone’s head,” she added — alluding to Zanu PF’s post-independence atrocities.
Asked about the 21st February Movement’s plans to host Mugabe’s 93rd birthday celebrations in Matobo in a fortnight, which will take place a few kilometres from Bhalagwe where many people were killed by the army during the Gukurahundi massacres, Mujuru said Zanu PF politicians from the region had demonstrated beyond doubt that they did not have local people at heart.
“I do not know why people in Zanu PF like Vice President (Phelekezela) Mphoko, Simon Khaya Moyo and Abednico Ncube agreed to that.
“What are they trying to do? Why are they not feeling for the people? In the first place, some of us we now know how best we can show people that this was wrong,” Mujuru said.
And unlike Mugabe, who has refused to apologise for his role or otherwise in Gukurahundi, only preferring to say it was “a moment of madness”, Mujuru said she had endeavoured to ensure that there was closure on the subject.
“Personally, I have gone out of my way to show the people of Matabeleland that this was wrong, by doing my utmost. I have been pre-occupied with issues like how sincere, what confidence, what security and what peace I can give as a person so that I do not continue opening old wounds.
“This is why at the slightest chance that I used to get whilst in government, I would find time to come here. However, it was too little and sometimes my efforts were drowned by certain things,” she said.
In December last year, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was quoted by the New Statesman publication of the UK, arguing that reports linking him to the Gukurahundi massacres were being peddled by his Zanu PF enemies to soil his name.
“How do I become the enforcer during Gukurahundi? We had the president … commander of the army and I was none of that,” he was quoted saying, adding it was the work of his enemies who had been attacking him “left, right and centre, and which is what the world had bought into”.