Joice Mujuru debuts in Bulawayo
BULAWAYO — Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) interim leader, Joice Mujuru, is set to make her debut in Bulawayo as an opposition political leader since the launch of her party in March, with the maiden rally set for the country’s second largest city on Saturday.
Mujuru hopes to overwhelm an electorate in the “City of Kings” that has consistently voted for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai since 2000.
There is increasing disenchantment with the MDC-T in Bulawayo, fuelled by the party’s decision to boycott by-elections held last year. The boycott automatically gave ZANU-PF six seats in the city, a victory it had last secured before the start of the new millennium. Allegations of corruption against the MDC-T dominated city council have also dented its standing in the eyes of the public.
ZANU-PF has also upped the ante, slamming the MDC-T for short-changing the city’s one million plus residents on service delivery.
In addition, the MDC-T’s provincial leadership has also been locked in a nasty power struggle that has played out in public and spilled into the courts.
Mujuru’s appearance and maiden rally in Bulawayo will come soon after the MDC-T held a demonstration last month attended by nearly 10 000 supporters.
The contest to show off numbers appears to have become a trump-card among political parties at the moment.
The ruling ZANU-PF in response to the MDC-T’s march in Harare in April, held the “million-man march” on Africa Day to rally support for President Robert Mugabe.
Mujuru’s maiden appearance in Bulawayo once again confirms the importance with which political parties hold the city in the political scheme of things.
The problems which afflict the city are fodder for any political party intent on swinging support its way and boosting its chances of making an appeal nationally. The city faces large-scale de-industrialisation, water shortages and high unemployment among other challenges.
Critics, however, argue that Bulawayo’s problems have been abused by politicians who often treat it as a free-for-all, with little to no delivery on the promises they make.
Gift Nyandoro, Mujuru’s spokesperson, said at Stanley Square, the venue of the rally, Mujuru would proffer solutions to all the socio-economic challenges that include the cash crisis, shortage of medicines in hospitals and the unacceptably high unemployment rate.
Methuseli Moyo, the ZPF chairman for information and publicity, told the Financial Gazette this week that it was all systems go as the new political party sought to make a mark in the country’s second largest city.
“The rally is there and the people are excited. Mrs Mujuru has not taken long to come down to Bulawayo, we were building the party. There was absolutely no need to rush,” he said.
Asked to explain the decision to hold her maiden rally at Stanley Square and not much bigger venues such as White City Stadium and Barbourfields Stadium, Moyo said the party had not been able to secure alternative venues on time.
“The venue holds up to 10 000 people and that is big. Besides, soccer stadiums are booked for football and were unavailable. We would have loved to have the White City Stadium. We will work with what is available,” he said.
Political commentator, Khanyile Mlotshwa, said Mujuru had a good chance to make an impression through her Bulawayo rally.
“She has stature in politics. As long as she banks on that and speaks serious politics, she is likely to have followers in Bulawayo. Smaller rallies by her party here in Bulawayo have had decent turnouts and it is clear from those rallies that people now want to hear from the horse’s mouth,” he said.
“Her rally will be packed, as long as her political commissars appeal to the people on the basis of her stature…If they play the woman card, they are likely to draw a lot of women, some of whom have never been interested in politics, to her party…”
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