Zimbabwe's former vice-president Joice Mujuru has announced the creation of an opposition party to challenge the country's ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu–PF). The announcement came days before President Robert Mugabe is to turn 92.
Mujuru told AFP that the new party will be called Zimbabwe People First (ZPF). "We don't lead the people, but people lead themselves," she said.
Mujuru worked as Mugabe's deputy for 10 years until she was fired in 2014 after being accused of corruption and plotting to overthrow the government by Mugabe's wife, Grace. Mujuru – widow of army general Solomon Mujuru, who died in a mysterious accident in 2011 – denied the allegations.
In September 2015, Mujuru released a manifesto in which she declared her intention to enhance development in the country. The Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (Build) was based on "values of the liberation struggle, self-determination, self-dignity, self-pride, expressed through the adoptiono f market driven policies under a constitutional democracy."
ZPF a 'political force'
ZPF will take part in the 2018 election. Mugabe announced he also intends to present his candidacy after being power for three decades. Zanu FP's vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe are seen as possible candidates to succeed Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader.
Didymus Mutasa – a former cabinet minister who was also kicked out of Zanu-PF – told the Daily Maverick that ZPF will be "a political force."
"Mujuru will attract almost every person from different walks of Zimbabwean life," he said. "She has been a vice-president of this country for 10 good years. She has done nothing wrong in the eyes of many people. I know people in the defence forces, people in the police, people in the Central Intelligence Office who will be very willing to see her leading Zimbabwe."
The creation of ZPF came as crackdown on political opponents, threats of purge and fights within the Zanu-PF party continue in Zimbabwe, a country that often makes headlines for its perceived poor record on human rights.
Mugabe has been ruling Zimbabwe since 1980. He was awarded the China's 2015 Confucius Peace Prize for "contributing to building the government, economy and order in the country while continuing to work at the age of 91 actively for African peace". However, the leader has been often criticised over allegations of corruption and crackdown on human rights.
Mugabe won the 2013 presidential election with 61% of votes, and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon praising him for having prevented violence during the election. However, investigations showed that the election was rigged and that the president had sought the help of an Israeli company to neutralise "unfavourable voting outcomes".
NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have warned Mugabe continues to violate human rights, despite the implementation of a new constitution in 2013.