Zimbabwe's former vice president Joice Mujuru has officially launched her party to challenge Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. The launch comes at a time when speculation is rife within Mugabe's party over his successor.
Mujuru's party will be called the Zimbabwe People First party. At a press conference to announce her new political venture, Joice Mujuru rallied all Zimbabweans from all walks of life, including veterans, to support her plans of putting back the country on the right path.
"Today is a historic day, this is a day of significance in our country's political history," Mujuru said.
"The scourge of corruption needs to be totally uprooted. We urge all our war veterans, police, and army and intelligence services to defend the constitution," she added.
Mugabe, who recently turned 92, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 during an era marked by vote-rigging, mass emigration, accusations of human rights abuses and economic decline.
The veteran leader is expected to stand again for re-election in 2018, but jockeying over his succession has intensified due to his advanced age and speculation about his health.
Flanked by party stalwart Rugare Gumbo, who twice served under President Mugabe as Minister of Economic Development in 2005-2007 and as Minister of Agriculture 2007-2009, Mujuru intends to prove that she remains a force to reckon with by attracting high caliber politicians to her party.
Who is Joice Mujuru?
Mujuru, the widow of Zimbabwe's first post-independence army general, was fired from Mugabe's government and the ruling ZANU-PF party in December 2014. As a former ZANU-PF stalwart, Mujuru served in several cabinets under Mugabe and was seen for many years as his favored choice of successor.
Her ousting came after a campaign by the president's wife Grace Mugabe who denigrated Mujuru and accused her of fomenting party division and plotting to topple Mugabe.
Mujuru responded to questions about Grace's accusations by saying: "I am now swearing before you that I am neither a witch nor an assassin."
She enjoys some public popularity in Zimbabwe, but faces a huge task to establish her new party in the country's tense political scene. Mujuru, 60, was a guerrilla fighter during Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war before rising to become vice president in 2004.
President in waiting?
With growing frustrations in Zimbabwe over Mugabe's handling of the country's affairs, especially the economy, some ordinary Zimbabweans who spoke to DW said the time has come for a new leader to take over the leadership mantle from a frail Robert Mugabe.
"Mujuru has shown Zimbabwe that she is a true leader; if she is a presidential candidate we believe she will serve her two terms and leave it to other young people," a resident of Harare said.
But political analyst Alexander Rusero says that Mujuru will have to work hard to win the hearts of the electorate after being part of Mugabe’s administration for 34 years.
"ZANU-PF cannot fight ZANU-PF. What we have is a Mujuru clique. Don’t overrate the influence that she might command. The electorate hardly forgets. They might appear docile but they hardly forget," Rusero told DW.
Currently Zimbabwe is struggling to deal with a devastating drought that has left at least 2.5 million people on the brink of starvation. The timing of Mujuru's launch of a political party may be a welcome signal to many. Mujuru hopes also to revive ties between Zimbabwe and the International community that have been severed.
"We shall rejoin the Commonwealth and mend relations with countries that had cut relations with Zimbabwe," Mujuru said.
Privilege Musvanhiri contributed to this report.