Mugabe’s Purged Ally Appears With Tsvangirai in Opposition Boost

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Zimbabwe’s former Vice President Joice Mujuru appeared at rallies with his political foe Morgan Tsvangirai in the central city of Gweru, boosting opposition against President Robert Mugabe.

Mujuru, who served in Mugabe’s first cabinet in 1980 and rose to become the 92-year-old leader’s deputy, formed Zimbabwe People First after being expelled from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front in 2014 after she was accused of plotting Mugabe’s assassination. Former labor union leader Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change has been the main opposition party since elections in 2000.

“We have common issues that affect both the MDC and ZPF, issues like worsening poverty and the lack of jobs,” Tsvangirai said by phone from the capital, Harare, on Monday. “We all need to come together with a new plan and renewed energy.”

The appearance of the two leaders on Aug. 13 is the first indication that Zimbabwe’s opposition may unite before elections in an effort to defeat Zanu-PF. Opposition has grown after the economy halved in size since 2000 and the government is this year struggling to pay state workers on time because because of a shortage of cash.

“Zanu-PF’s decision to purge Mujuru and her allies was a critical blunder,” Charles Laurie, head of country risk at U.K.-based Verisk Maplecroft, said by e-mail. “A test of Tsvangirai’s resolve to unite the MDC will be his willingness to set aside his own political ambitions.”

Combining parties would increase their chances of defeating Mugabe in 2018 elections, said Gift Nyandoro, Mujuru’s spokesman.

“We need to join hands for the sake of the people,” he said.