Mujuru launches ‘pungwe’ rallies

Joice Mujuru

HARARE – Opposition National People’s Party (NPP) leader Joice Mujuru has launched her bid for presidency with night vigils — popularly known as pungwes — hoping to take votes from mainstream candidates in a tight race that promises a strong turnout.

By Fungi Kwaramba

The 62-year-old was President Robert Mugabe’s deputy for a decade and seen as the veteran leader’s shoo-in successor until he fired her in 2014, accusing her of leading a plot to oust him.

She launched NPP this year to challenge her ally-turned-adversary, and has started to prepare a campaign that will see her stand as a presidential candidate in next year’s election, promising to revive the economy and repair strained relations with the West.

NPP secretary-general Gift Nyandoro, who also doubles as her spokesperson, said the former Cabinet minister and guerilla is launching night vigils, which date back to the liberation struggle days when freedom fighters organised them as strategies to mobilise the rural population.

The freedom fighters used the pungwes to solicit for support from villagers.

“It is a roller-coaster programme that is done on a daily basis. The aim is for the president to address every single of the 1 958 wards in Zimbabwe before 2018 elections,” Nyandoro said.

“The aim is to tell Zimbabweans what NPP stands for among many other important messages.

“Among other important messages is that she is encouraging Zimbabweans to register in the voter registration exercise and to avoid voter apathy because Zimbabweans owe it to themselves to liberate the country from Mugabe hegemony. Remember she is a guerrilla and a war vet.”

The NPP was formed after the Zimbabwe People First split over disagreements between Mujuru and the party’s founders — Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo.

The rebranded party has also been hit by a series of resignations since then and presently the party’s treasurer-general Wilbert Mubaiwa is accusing the party’s leadership of having dictatorial tendencies.

In a letter to Mujuru, Mubaiwa — who had provided the NPP with offices — is accusing Mujuru of stifling democracy and behaving similarly with her erstwhile comrades in Zanu PF.

“I am at times convinced that the country’s problems are much bigger than Mugabe and Zanu PF because of a clear testimony of the general and tragic leadership failure across the entire political divide and spectrum in our country in general and our party in particular,” said Mubaiwa.

Asked whether NPP will take any disciplinary action against Mubaiwa, who is being left out from the party’s activities, including the ongoing night vigils, Nyandoro said he can only comment when his principal finishes dealing with the contents of the letter.

“His status is now an issue of due process enquiry and hence I am constrained to comment on it since it might be subjudice.

“I am advised that he has penned a letter to the party president whose contents I am not privy to,” Nyandoro said.

Several party officials have expressed disgruntlement over Mujuru’s leadership style as well as failure to whip errant officials into line. – Daily News