FORMER vice-president Joice Mujuru is touring the country's provinces consulting grassroots ahead of the official launch of her People First (PF) party, amid revelations she is wooing experienced politicians from established parties.
According to close Mujuru allies, President Robert Mugabe's former long-time deputy was in the Midlands Province early last week where she met former legislators from both the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition, in particular former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T.
Images appeared on social media showing Mujuru in a group photo with ex-lawmakers, mainly from the opposition MDC-T.
PF interim spokesperson Rugare Gumbo confirmed Mujuru met with ex-MDC-T MPs.
"They are the ones who asked to meet her. I did not attend the meeting, but I understand they wanted to assure her that they were fully behind her," Gumbo said.
A picture taken after the meeting showed that more than 16 former MPs attended and these included ex-Chiredzi MP Moses Mare, former Mutare West MP and Manicaland provincial chairman Shuah Mudiwa, former Zaka North MP Enerst Mudavanhu and several others.
Mudiwa described the meeting as "just a free association."
He said PF was still to be launched and hence there was nothing to join at the moment.
"This is just an association. There is nothing to join because they are yet to form a party," Mudiwa said.
Other officials close to Mujuru said the PF project was taking shape.
"The train is ready to move. Things have shaped up. I used to tell you that things were shaping up but now they have shaped up. Just wait and see," said one of the key mobilisers.
"We have senior officials from other parties offering to pay for the halls we want to hold meetings where Mujuru will address. It is exciting."
Mujuru, according to sources, will be meeting activists from Bulawayo province this week before hosting other provinces.
She has already met with her party's structures in Masvingo, Harare and Manicaland as well as the political hotbed of Mashonaland East.
"She will be meeting the Bulawayo province soon. Her message is clear; the party is ready to roll. She is telling people that she is holding a political bottle that is full of promises. It is a mixture of people from across the divide," said another source.
"From the MDC and from Zanu PF, but her main thrust is to unite the people of this country.
"Mujuru has no option but to lead because she has the people's goodwill and the masses are convinced that is the only thing that can save this nation."
Mujuru's manoeuvres have sent shockwaves across the country's body-politic.
"It's positive chaos. She has rocked the very foundations of particularly the opposition. There is spontaneity; there is energy even as far as South Africa.
"The kind of energy that I did not see even at the height of the MDC's popularity in the early days of its formation," a senior MDC-T official said.
"The smaller parties like the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti will be swallowed even Simba Makoni's Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn. As for the MDC-T little will remain of it because most of its leaders in the provinces and those that were disgruntled are joining the PF enmasse".
Gumbo said Mujuru was about to wind up her nationwide tours.
"In fact we are almost done with all the provinces. There are I think one or two that remain as well as other groups such as former MPs and organisations keen on hearing her position and message," Gumbo said.
He said there "is palpable excitement" across the political divide with "MPs from both Zanu PF and the MDCs stampeding to join".
"There is massive excitement because people see this as the only institution that can save the country. The response Mai Mujuru has received is tremendous," he said.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo scoffed at the reports that his party's members were ready to jump ship.
"I am not a spokesperson for anybody other than Zanu PF. I have not been advised by anybody that they want to leave the party," Khaya-Moyo said.
Khaya-Moyo refused to comment on suggestions that PF would take away Zanu PF supporters.
"I have no mandated to talk about other political groups and their activities," he said.
Gumbo said Mujuru's message to the provinces was that the launch of the long awaited party was near.
"She is telling them that we are close to the launch and that we have left Zanu PF for good," she said.
" There is no turning back. We are starting a movement that will be a political home for disenfranchised Zimbabweans from across the political divide. We want to bring people together."
He said the party had already coined a rallying slogan: "In PF we say; tiri tese (we are in it together). Rino igore rekuvaka (this is a year of reconstruction".
"Reconstruction of our politics because the institutions that Zanu has created are aimed at entrenching the status quo, that cements the power of the elite," Gumbo said.
"It is a narrow elite, that is supported by extractive institutions which they are using to suck resources to the detriment of all Zimbabweans."
Meanwhile, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said it was not true that his party was losing MPs to PF.
"It's a blue lie to allege that Joice Mujuru is attracting support from MDC-T structures," he said.
" Last time I checked, it is supporters of Tendai Biti's PDP who had joined Mujuru if recent reports on social media are anything to go by.
"The MDC - T remains the largest and most popular political party in Zimbabwe.
"We're the real deal; the only game in town. Joice Mujuru might be a threat to the faction-ridden and crumbling Zanu PF and other small, fringe opposition political parties but certainly, she is not a threat to the MDC - T. In a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, we can beat any political party hands down. We are the Goliath of Zimbabwean politics; absolutely no doubt about that!" Gutu said.
Biti said he viewed Mujuru as a "friend and not foe".
"It is those that have an unbridled ambition to rule, who think they have a God given right to take over from Mugabe," he said.
"We do not view PF as a threat to us. An enemy to our enemy is a friend to us. Mujuru is an enemy to Mugabe and Zanu PF. It is those that are drunk with the urge to rule who are sweating," Biti said.
"We have said we will work with all right thinking political formations and PF is one of them".
Brutally stampeded out of the ruling party at the tail end of 2014, ahead of the Zanu PF congress Mujuru has played her cards close to her chest thus far - letting her lieutenants including another liberation stalwart and ex-ruling party propaganda chief Gumbo do the talking.
Gumbo said the party's constitution was "almost complete".
"But we are not going to have the complete constitution because input is still coming from the provinces," he said.
"We have requested that they continue to bring their input. Another thing is it has to be ratified by congress but we will have a working document that will regulate our members as we go to the inaugural congress."
Despite her expulsion from the ruling party, Mujuru has remained popular amid reports serving MPs were preparing to jump ship ahead of a watershed poll in 2018.