Moyo's new party to challenge Mugabe
Moyo - Mugabe's favourite henchman until he fell victim to vicious political in-fighting - has created a group of disillusioned war veterans, 16 independent political candidates and high-profile dissenters from the ruling Zanu PF Party.
At a public rally in Bulawayo on Sunday, Moyo and his allies announced a common platform - effectively creating a third political movement alongside Zanu PF and the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change.
The new alliance, whose manifesto - leaked to The Telegraph - calls for a fixed presidential term, promises to pose the most serious challenge to 81-year-old Mr Mugabe in his 25 years in power.
In an interview last week, Moyo, 47, warned that Zanu PF faced disaster if it failed to revamp its leadership and bring in younger blood. The party, he said, needed to "open up, reach out and catch up".
"We have to accept that at various levels of leadership you get the best out of people at their prime," he told the Zimbabwe Independent.
"You simply can't have the same output from a 30-something and an 80-something person - there are diminishing returns. All societies benefit from people at their peak and not when they are at retirement age."
Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni, a spokesman for Moyo's new group, confirmed the developments: "The independent candidates are forming a network and common platform under the leadership of former information minister Jonathan Moyo.
"Eventually we will form a party and third voice in parliament."
Joshua Mhambi, another leader of the new alliance's secretariat, said that the aim was to topple Mugabe. "Our main goal is the presidency," he said. "Participation in this election is a way of announcing and establishing a new and powerful presence towards 2008." Moyo and Mugabe were once the closest of cronies, united in their distaste for Western governments and determined to clamp down on dissenters.
The British government, Moyo once said, were "hamburger-eating imperialists" and agents of the "dysfunctional Blair Toilet System".
But Mugabe and Moyo fell out spectacularly last month, allegedly after a close ally of the information minister was passed over for the vice-presidency. In a rare defection from the president's inner circle, Moyo - the architect of Zimbabwe's draconian media laws - declared that he would run as an independent candidate in the elections on March 31. He was summarily fired, stripped of his Zanu PF membership and evicted from his government villa in an elite suburb of the capital, Harare.
These swingeing punishments were seen as a reflection of Mugabe's determination to hang on to power against any possible challenge.
The manifesto drafted by Moyo's new group, which has already bought office space in Bulawayo, effectively calls for an end to a Zimbabwe that is run by one man.
It demands voting by secret ballot, voting rights for Zimbabweans who have left the country, popular elections of premiers and a senate, and a campaign against government bureaucracy.
Ndiweni said the group hoped to shock the Zanu leadership by launching the alliance just weeks before the election. So far, political campaigning in Zimbabwe has been low-key - Zanu PF posters are hard to find in Harare or Bulawayo and few rallies have been organised.
Ndiweni said: "You don't want to give your opponent time to scheme. Forming a third alliance will shake up the system and Mugabe is going to be completely shocked."
Critics of Moyo, who was closely associated with the president's catastrophic land-reform programme and violent repression of opposition in Zimbabwe, claim that the group's goals are over-ambitious and accuse him of playing power politics. His new group, they say, will be running on a platform similar to that of the opposition MDC and offers little that is new to voters.
Mhambi insisted that the group's greatest weapon would be Moyo himself. "The MDC should have studied Zanu," he said. "You can't beat Zanu with violence. They're too good.
"Moyo can engage Zanu in a war they're unfamiliar with - a war of the mind."
The group also claims that it will prove a more palatable opposition alternative for other African leaders who no longer wish to support Mr Mugabe but have proved unwilling to back the MDC, which enjoys influential Western backing.
Ndiweni claimed that those leaders might include Thabo Mbeki, president of Zimbabwe's powerful neighbour South Africa, and a vital ally of Mugabe's for years. "Mbeki can't leave Zanu for the MDC," Ndiweni said.
"He's looking for a party that is an alternative to Zanu from a pan-African liberation perspective, not European-centric like the MDC.
"Mbeki knows that Jesus will come before a modernised Zanu PF."
Zimbabwe used to be prosperous but has been crippled by a deep depression. The government's seizure of land has crippled the economy and contributed to soaring inflation, rising unemployment, poverty and malnutrition. Life expectancy is now less than 34 years and aid agencies believe that more than five million people face famine.
Moyo's designs on power have been boosted by support from Jabulani Sibanda, chairman of the powerful War Veterans Association and an open critic of Zanu PF.
"I joined the armed struggle for 12-and-a-half years - I grew up in war," Sibanda told The Telegraph. "We fought for majority law but now we are being governed by the minority."
Sibanda has already faced rebuke from Zanu PF party leaders. "I was suspended, reinstated, suspended again," he said. "Now, I don't know whether I'm suspended or not. I didn't leave Zanu - they left me."
While he opposed the formation of a new party - fearing that support would be fragmented - he said there was little choice. He pointed to corruption as the biggest problem within Zanu.
"The problem with the Zanu leadership is they make laws but don't follow them. They are more powerful than the constitution," Sibanda said.
"Our people don't see the difference between what the white settlers did and what Zanu leadership is doing. It is even worse because we voted them into power.
"There are certain individuals who have to be voted out. But you vote them out and they come back, by Mugabe appointing them."
Frustration over the tight-knit circle surrounding Mugabe has given the alliance of independent candidates extra impetus. The government is run almost entirely by people from the Shona tribe whereas the new group is made up almost entirely of politicians from the rival Ndebele tribe.
"Zanu has become a clique," Ndiweni said. "There are so many tribes in this country. Why would one tribe play the guitar and expect all of us to dance? We are not all monkeys."
Yet while many Zimbabweans would be keen to challenge the rule of Zanu and Mugabe, they would hesitate before supporting Mr Moyo, a figure who strikes fear among opposition voters and has performed dramatic political U-turns in the past.
The former university professor was an outspoken critic of Mr Mugabe before he joined government in 2000. As recently as 1999, Mr Moyo was writing articles condemning the president. "His uncanny propensity to shoot himself in the foot has become a national problem which needs urgent containment," Moyo wrote in one newspaper. "Does the president not realise that when he belittles universal issues such as basic human rights, he loses the moral high-ground to his critics?"
Within months, however, Moyo had become the spokesman for the government-appointed Constitutional Commission, which was overseeing a new democratic base for Zimbabwe.
The draft document was rejected in a national referendum in February 2000 but Mr Moyo's star continued to rise. In June 2000 he was appointed as Zanu PF's general-election campaign manager.
Max Mkandla, a radical opposition activist, said last night: "We forgive him but we do not forget. And we don't know how independent any Moyo party will actually be."
Ndiweni was standing
by Moyo: "People love to hate him but they can't stop talking about
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