Margaret Dongo’s response to her expulsion from Joice Mujuru’s ZimPF party
Zimbabwe’s trailblazing politician, human rights activist, and former freedom fighter, says Mujuru’s decision to expel her from ZimPF is the culmination of months of self-defeating politics borrowed from the ruling Zanu PF party’s playbook.
26 February, 2017
Harare – In 2014, I was one of the few Zimbabweans who immediately and unequivocally defended Joice Mujuru after her brutal ejection from Zanu PF. Today, I feel betrayed. I feel insulted.
Mujuru’s fabricated accusations of a “coup d’état and sophisticated infiltration” were not accompanied by any real evidence. They can only remind Zimbabweans of the brutal way Robert Mugabe has dealt with potential challengers in the past 36 years. Mujuru acted as the arresting officer, judge and jury.
There are inconvenient truths about ZimPF under Joice Mujuru’s leadership Zimbabweans deserve to know.
Mujuru’s decision to expel me from ZimPF is the culmination of months of self-defeating politics borrowed from Zanu PF’s playbook. They are politics on insecurity and a debilitating inability to apply the principles of civility to political conflict. I only learned about my expulsion through the media.
In 2014, Rugare Gumbo approached me and urged me to ask Mujuru to assume the leadership of ZimPF. On several occasions, I drove to her farm and held discussion with her. She was hesitant. Her heart was still with Zanu PF. I was forced to assure her that I would come on board and support her. I had a series of meetings with war veterans at my house. Later, I invited women from all the ten provinces to meet her.
ZimPF women should question Mujuru’s commitment to the empowerment of Zimbabwean women. Zimbabweans should question Mujuru’s commitment to gender equality in politics.
Our relationship began to deteriorate just after she had accepted the invitation to lead the movement that would later become ZimPF. At first, she just ignored me. I continued to mobilize people to support her.
Mujuru’s growing insecurity immediately morphed into conceited efforts to undermine me. While appointing people to positions on the National leadership, she called for elections involving women from all provinces to decided my future in the party.
I won the elections, held on 22 September 2015, forcing Mujuru to grudgingly accept me as ZimPF’s interim national chairperson. Thereafter, Mujuru actively and repeatedly undermined my work and authority. She made sure that I did not receive all the resources required to implement programs for the women I was supposed to lead and empower. I financed most of my meetings.
Then there are the issues of honesty and taking responsibility. Mujuru often told me the so-called party’s “elders” opposed my presence in the top leadership of the party. And yet, during meetings, she was never comfortable sitting next to me. She made no secret that she wasn’t personally interested in my contributions. During rallies, I was always barred from speaking. Often, I’d be asked to only say my name during introductions; if I said more than my name, party “elders” such as Dzikamai Mavhaire would take away the mic from me.
Mujuru’s strange discomfort found its greatest expression when supporters applauded and chanted Dongo! Dongo! Dongo! after I had addressed the party’s first rally in Bulawayo, and after I had addressed the party’s rally in Mutare. Sensing her growing discomfort, I recommended that she appoints someone she would be comfortable to work with. There was no response.
In 2016, women expressed their discontent with the fact that they were not adequately represented in existing committees. They complained about interference in their operations by individuals from the national leadership. They questioned why the party president surrounded herself with men wherever she went. They feared the emergency of an insulated male-dominated leadership that would only value women during the election season.
Mujuru last held a meeting with women September 2015. Women, who are the backbone of the party, were repeatedly denied the opportunity to meet with the party president and share their concerns with her. Sensing a growing disconnection between Mujuru and women leaders from the provinces, I forced a meeting on 27 January 2017.
During this meeting the women took Mujuru to task. They presented stories of rampant factionalism, power struggles, meddling by members of the national leadership, and frustrated members leaving the party. The provincial leadership from Masvingo reported serious problems implicating Dzikamai Mavhaire. The women reported that these problems, which can also be blamed for the party’s loss in Bikita West, required the attention of the national leadership.
Mujuru’s solution to these problems was to fire me and make litigious accusations.
Mujuru’s insecurity undermines Zimbabwean women’s continuing struggle for genuine representation at the highest levels of the country’s political, social and economic institutions. It undermines the struggle against Robert Mugabe. It undermines Zimbabwean democracy.
To be clear, my heart bleeds. But this isn’t just about Margaret Dongo. It’s about a cancer that has ravished our politics across all party lines since independence. The current ZimPF leadership remains stuck in poisonous methods imported from Zanu PF, where the old guard is hostile youthful leadership, and new ideas.
At the moment in ZimPF, women are rarely taken seriously. ZimPF is beset with problems situated in a debilitating reluctance to accept women as leaders. Mujuru is fast becoming the female figurehead of a leadership that’s isolated from the people it claims to lead.
Mujuru should not be allowed to kill the hopes and dreams Zimbabwean women and Zimbabweans in general.