Zimbabwe's Joice Mujuru forms ZPF to oppose Mugabe

Zimbabwe's Joyce Mujuru gestures while addressing supporters in Harare, March 1, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Joice Mujuru was known as "Spill Blood" during the campaign against white minority rule

A powerful former ally of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched a party to challenge his 35-year rule.

Joice Mujuru said the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party had been formed because "Zimbabwe is a broken country".

Ms Mujuru was Mr Mugabe's second-in-command until he sacked her in 2014 after accusing her of plotting to oust and kill him.

"I'm neither a witch nor an assassin," Ms Mujuru said, at the party's launch in the capital, Harare.

She is the most senior former Zanu-PF leader to form an opposition party, and is tipped to be its presidential candidate in the 2018 election.

Her supporters ululated as she entered the hall to announce ZPF's launch, reports the BBC's Nomsa Maseko from the scene.

Joice Mujuru - key facts:

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Mujuru was once seen as Mr Mugabe's heir apparent in Zanu-PF
  • Was married to Solomon Mujuru, who was seen as Zanu-PF kingmaker
  • He died in suspicious fire in 2011
  • She was known as "Spill Blood" during the independence war
  • She claims to have shot down a Rhodesian helicopter with the machine-gun of a dying comrade and was later promoted to commander
  • After spending her youth fighting the war, she obtained secondary school qualifications and a degree while in government
  • First woman to become Zimbabwe's vice-president in 2004
  • Sacked from that position in 2014 and expelled from Zanu-PF in 2015
  • Forms Zimbabwe People First party in 2016
  • Family has vast business interests.

Ms Mujuru, 60, was flanked by other former Zanu-PF heavyweights, including Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo.

She hailed the formation of ZPF as historic, and said it would fight the "scourge of corruption" in Zimbabwe.

"Some revolutionaries are busy pulling Zimbabwe down," Ms Mujuru said.

Our correspondent says she was a Zanu-PF member for more than 30 years, and will it find difficult to convince voters that she represents a new era.

But, encouragingly for Ms Mujuru, her supporters turned up at the launch to give their backing, she adds.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Mugabe celebrated his 92nd birthday at the weekend

Zanu-PF has nominated Mr Mugabe, who turned 92 last month, for re-election in 2018.

However, because of his advancing age, a battle to succeed him is raging in Zanu-PF between Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace, and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was appointed to the post following Ms Mujuru's expulsion, correspondents say.

Mrs Mugabe led the campaign to oust Ms Mujuru, who was seen to harbour ambitions to succeed Mr Mugabe as Zanu-PF leader and president.

Analysis: Lewis Machipisa, BBC Africa

Ms Mujuru will take some support from Zanu-PF, but is unlikely to come remotely close to dislodging it from power.

Zanu-PF is a formidable force, with control over all state institutions.

It will not be surprising if law-enforcement agencies now investigate her over the business empire she and her late husband built following Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. They will want to know if she was involved in corruption or if her wealth is clean.

Her decision to form the ZPF party will not give the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, sleepless nights. His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters see her as Mr Mugabe's jilted lover, and are unlikely to join her party.

She will struggle to establish a well-oiled party machinery, and is unlikely to receive financial support from Western donors because of her long relationship with Zanu-PF.

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