HARARE- Firebrand war veteran Margaret Dongo,yesterday launched a new political party to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s warring Zanu PF, noting bluntly that arrogant and corrupt ruling party bigwigs were fomenting Zimbabwe’s mounting political and economic woes.
The new party, the Movement for People First — which is different from the “original” Zanu PF formation fronted by liberation struggle stalwarts, that uses the slogan People First — will contest the much-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Dongo said the new party had “a great team of patriots driven by a very strong conviction that there is need, given this country’s prevailing political, social and economic circumstances to come up with a truly and practically people-centred, patriotic political formation whose premise is the people themselves”.
Analysts told the Daily News yesterday that Dongo’s move would put immense pressure on the seemingly hesitant former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who has been touted as the leader of the People First movement, although she is still to publicly pronounce her association with the rival Zanu PF formation herself.
“Therefore, for all those persons who have been enjoying it on the fence, claiming they are out of Zanu PF, we say this is the occasion for them to show where they really stand, whether they like it or not. The enemy has been provoked, it is time to engage,” Dongo said yesterday in remarks that could be interpreted as targeted at Mujuru.
She added that in launching the new party, she was “guided by the liberation war tactic of provoking the enemy in order to engage the coward and fence-sitters among us into battle”.
But moving to douse any perceived rivalry between the two parties, People First spokesperson Kudakwashe Bhasikiti said Dongo’s outfit “should not be news to anybody” — denying interpretations that Mujuru was the “coward and fence-sitter” that was being attacked.
The former Masvingo Provincial minister went on to say Dongo was free to join People First under Mujuru.
“Mujuru cannot be under Dongo,” Bhasikiti said, adding that the former VP was poised to be the next Zimbabwe president.
Bhasikiti said they were inviting “everyone and anyone interested in the restoration of Zimbabwe” to join the People First movement, which he reiterated would be officially launched soon.
Invoking the spirit of the liberation war and the optimism that prevailed during Zimbabwe’s first all-race elections in 1980, Dongo said yesterday that as the country marked its 35th Heroes Day commemoration, the dream of uplifting, promoting and protecting the people of Zimbabwe was dying under Mugabe and Zanu PF.
She said Zanu PF’s rule had “sickened us to the core”, while indigenisation was failing dismally — further urging the government to allow vending to continue, “not because we do not care about the dirt, health and image issues involved, but because the times we live in demand that vendors be allowed to remain on the streets up to and until government attends to the needs of the economy”.
“Accordingly, we have since registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission The Movement for People First as a direct provocation to engage in an open and democratic confrontation with the ruling political enemy, Zanu PF,” Dongo, who is the interim national chairperson of the party said.
“The Movement of People First is set to bring new, committed and patriotic leadership, which is untainted with the past. Therefore, to those with an uncleared baggage, we say declare them and clear yourselves before the mass of the Zimbabwe people.
“We clearly hold that Zimbabwe’s issues cannot be solved by replacing corrupt and arrogant persons with other corrupt and arrogant persons,” she said.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Dongo, 55 — a former Zanu PF legislator and founder of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats — could make a significant impact on the political scene given Zanu PF’s deadly infighting and the fact that she enjoyed the respect of many war veterans and ordinary Zimbabweans for her principled political stand.
Her re-entry into the congested political fray means that she would be among a stellar cast of candidates that include indefatigable opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 63, who will take Mugabe head-on in the 2018 presidential elections — if the long-ruling and frail nonagenarian will still be the post-congress Zanu PF’s candidate in those polls.
Dongo, who says she was mentored into politics by Mugabe’s first wife Sally, recently received death threats, allegedly from government spooks, because of her political work. She has regularly challenged Mugabe and Zanu PF on their failings and misrule.
On its part, Zanu PF said yesterday that it had “noted” Dongo’s announcement, adding that she had nothing new to offer to Zimbabweans.
“Forming political parties has become so fashionable and a means of survival for many in Zimbabwe and Dongo, I am afraid, is evidently no exception,” spokesperson Psychology Maziwisa told the Daily News.
“She is obviously desperate for a few Western dollars and given the culture of opposition politics in Zimbabwe, that’s perfectly understandable. ... the only positive thing from her so-called political party is that it enhances the democratic discourse.
“We obviously applaud that; it is precisely why President Mugabe went to war. But she is hideously mistaken if she thinks we will lose sleep over her useless party,” he added.
Dongo also urged Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to “commit ourselves to the promise, to the undertaking that the Unknown Soldier did not spill his or her blood in vain, that we are here to rekindle the unfinished revolution’s aspirations”.
“We deserve and need their guidance. Let the Movement for People First strike in the hearts of the thieves and liars. Let’s all unite for the cause,” she said.
Gift Phiri: Daily News