Expelled in September last year from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, Tracy Mutinhiri, the former deputy labour and social welfare minister, has joined the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as an ordinary card-carrying member.
Zanu-PF hardliners are now using this as evidence to prove that she is a “sell-out”, the official reason given for her being kicked out of the party.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said: “We are not surprised by the move. All indications from the time she was with us showed that she was always working with [opposition leader] Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC.”
But her fall from grace is a classic case of how the party casts out young members keen to embrace change and new ideas and who do not join in the adulation of Mugabe.
Margaret Dongo, a war veteran and leader of the little-known Zimbabwe Union of Democrats party, years ago exposed the hero worship that is afforded to Mugabe by party officials, who she described as “Mugabe’s wives”.
Too old to rule
While in Zanu-PF, Mutinhiri swam against the tide and was an outspoken critic of Mugabe. She repeatedly and openly said he was too old to rule and had to step down – something unheard of in party circles. She also threatened to expose party bigwigs involved in the violence during the 2008 elections and claimed she knew where the bodies of five murdered MDC activists had been dumped.
Mutinhiri said this week that failing to toe the party line had cost her her job, but she dismissed long-held claims by Zanu-PF that she had voted for the MDC’s Lovemore Moyo for the hotly contested post of Parliament speaker in March last year, another reason given for her expulsion.
“It was said that five [Zanu-PF] people voted for Moyo, but even up to today no one has ever brought any evidence to prove that I voted for him. I alone was singled out. All my troubles in Zanu-PF began with that speakership election. I didn’t vote for Moyo.”
She said it had been easy to expel her from the party because she had not been aligned with either of the powerful Zanu-PF factions, which are led by Vice-President Joyce Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. “Unlike others, I didn’t believe in factions and, in fact, I did not belong to any.
Life must go on
“All I wanted to do while I was in Zanu-PF was to work for the collective good of our country. To an extent, because of that, people in Zanu-PF misunderstood me and there was no faction that could stand up for me when all these accusations came up against me.”
With regard to her life after Zanu-PF, she said: “Life must go on. It was a bit difficult for me at first when I left. There were cars and people always trailing me, but I just had to keep my composure and continue going about my business.
“I understand now from the grapevine that they [Zanu-PF] are angry that I have joined the MDC, but what will that change?” she asked.
The MDC’s top brass has welcomed her with “open arms” and described her as a “progressive force”.
They are delighted to have a senior former Zanu-PF member join their camp before a critical election.