THE late Rtd General Solomon Mujuru initiated Simba Makoni’s 2008 presidential bid and actively supported the former finance minister before chickening out at the last minute to save his wife’s career and business interests.
Leaked United States embassy cables say Vice President Joice Mujuru’s husband, who was burnt to death when an as yet unexplained fire razed his farm house in Beatrice last month, was the mastermind of Makoni’s candidacy after failing to build sufficient momentum within Zanu PF to force President Robert Mugabe to step down.
Mujuru’s moves against Mugabe were revealed by his key aides, Tirivanhu Mudariki and David Butau, in private meetings with officials from the United States embassy in Harare, according to diplomatic cables released online by WikiLeaks.
In a summary of discussions with Butau following a meeting held in May 2007, US Ambassador Christopher Dell wrote: “David Butau, Zanu PF MP and member of the faction allied to ex-military commander Solomon Mujuru, (told us) on May 31 that Mujuru had determined that the time to unseat President Robert Mugabe was now.
“Mujuru had flexed his muscle and wrested control of the party structures in Masvingo and Bulawayo, and his subordinates had begun to chip away at Mugabe's key backers. Butau added that while pressure on Mugabe was needed, the USG needed to quietly weigh into this intra-party battle to help block Mugabe's bid for another term.”
After failing to stop Mugabe’s nomination as Zanu PF’s Presidential candidate at the December 2007 congress, the conspirators apparently initiated Makoni’s bid while maintaining pressure within the party.
Mudariki told Dell’s successor, Ambassador James McGee, that Mujuru’s efforts culminated in a meeting with Mugabe on March 30, 2008, where the General was however outwitted by the veteran Zanu PF leader.
Wrote McGee: “(Mudariki) reports that Mujuru, in a meeting March 10 with President Robert Mugabe, urged Mugabe to step down, Mugabe declined, subsequently telling the press that Mujuru supported him and not presidential candidate Simba Makoni.
“Mujuru is now attempting to rally Zanu PF politburo members to put additional pressure on Mugabe at a scheduled Wednesday politburo meeting to resign. Mujuru continues to actively support Makoni, although he has not come out publicly.”
Mujuru’s involvement in Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile project was also confirmed by Dumiso Dabengwa, one of the few prominent Zanu PF officials to leave the party ahead of the key 2008 elections.
McGee adds: “Dabengwa averred that Makoni had substantial support in the country, even though high-profile leaders had, for personal reasons, chosen not to publicly express their support.
“He commented that General Solomon Mujuru also was one of the initiators of Makoni's candidacy; Mujuru was still solidly behind Makoni, but Dabengwa was unsure when and if he would make his support public.”
Mujuru is said to have balked at publicly endorsing Makoni for fear of possible “prosecution for corrupt business practices”.
Butau said Mujuru’s bid to get rid of Mugabe was driven by increasing alarm at the impact the country’s economic collapse was having on his vast business empire.
“The Mujurus believe Zanu PF cannot solve the economic mess and they need a regularisation of the business environment so that they can continue to conduct their many businesses,” Mudariki allegedly told Ambassador McGee at another meeting in October 2010.
The General had complained bitterly about the impact of Western sanctions on his business activities in a rare meeting with Ambassador Dell in 2006.
“Demonstrating that even he was hurt by the financial sanctions, Mujuru complained bitterly about a US$7 million line of credit he had arranged which had been frozen by OFAC,” Dell said.
“Mujuru added that the targeted sanctions were impacting other regime leaders and making them less eager to engage.”
The revelations could be a hammer blow to Vice President Mujuru’s waning dreams of succeeding Mugabe at the helm of Zanu PF.
Political commentators say already weakened by her husband’s death, VP Mujuru now risks being sidelined by Mugabe who bristles at any challenge to his rule.