Zimbabwean former vice president Joice Mujuru announced Wednesday she was forming a new party to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s all-powerful ZANU-PF, in a move that could shake up the country’s politics.
Mugabe, who turns 92 on Sunday, has ruled since independence in 1980 during an era marked by vote-rigging, mass emigration, accusations of human rights abuses and economic decline.
He is expected to stand again for election in 2018, but jockeying over his succession has intensified due to his advanced age and speculation about his health.
“We are ‘People First’,” Mujuru told AFP by telephone, confirming the name of her new party but giving no further details.
“We don’t lead the people, but people lead themselves.”
Mujuru, who is the widow of Zimbabwe’s first post-independence army general, was fired from the government and the ruling ZANU-PF party in December 2014.
Her ousting came after a campaign by Mugabe’s wife Grace denigrating Mujuru and accusing her of corruption, fomenting division in the party and plotting to topple Mugabe.
Many of her allies and perceived sympathisers met a similar fate in a party purge.
Mujuru, 60, who was replaced as vice president by long-time Mugabe ally Emmerson Mnangagwa, denied all Grace’s accusations.
She was a guerrilla fighter during Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war before rising to become vice president in 2004.