HARARE – As Zanu PF’s escalating factional and succession wars turn increasingly violent — with the country’s economy once again teetering on the brink — embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru yesterday implored Zimbabweans to pray for their country and for peace.

Mujuru, a devout member of the Salvation Army, has of late come under a sustained and brutal attack from her political enemies in the ruling party, including First Lady Grace Mugabe who has openly and stunningly called for her ouster, accusing the VP of working to topple President Robert Mugabe, corruption, fanning factionalism in Zanu PF and gross ineptitude among a litany of other allegations.

Only two weeks ago, youths bussed into Harare mainly from the Midlands, lampooned Mujuru right in front of Mugabe, who did not take any measure to shield his party and government number two from the drunken yobs.

Speaking guardedly and confining her address mostly to matters of religion at the official handover of land to the Salvation Army by the minister of Labour Nicholas Goche in Shamva yesterday, Mujuru said Zimbabwe was currently facing many challenges that required the Church’s urgent intervention.

“Vesangano mune basa (The Church has a huge task on its hands),” she said, adding that people in Harare, for example, lived in walled and gated houses not out of choice and style, but as a futile attempt to keep marauding thieves away.

Turning to the subject of leadership, she said cryptically that this came with responsibility, entailing leading by example.

“Tinofunga kuti kana waita mutungamiriri, waita councillor, waita sabhuku zvokwira zvakadaro unenge uchitarisirwa kupa dzidziso kune vanhu vakasiyana siyana (When you become a leader people look up to you as an individual to lead by example),” Mujuru said.

The widowed VP, who until now has been seen as the frontrunner to succeed 90-year-old Mugabe, also said educated people in the country should not use their intellectual skills to destroy the country but must instead focus on development.

Analysts have praised Mujuru for keeping her counsel in the face of extreme provocation by her party rivals. While her political foes have gone beserk in their propaganda against her over the past few months, she has laudably kept her cool, choosing to soldier on quietly notwithstanding the well-calculated smear campaigns in the State media.

A week ago, Mugabe and the ruling party’s politburo ordered the setting up of an inquiry into the factionalism devouring the party, with Mujuru and her main rival Emmerson Mnangagwa both fingered by the nonagenarian as the leaders of the factions.

As she spoke at yesterday’s function, she said it was crucial for people to respect each other.

“We cannot respect a God we have not seen when we cannot respect each other. We were created in his own image. It delights the Lord to see his people living in peace,” Mujuru said.

Quoting the Bible extensively, Mujuru said the Church was there to help people live peacefully together and to mould God-fearing citizens.

She also said that people should generally not be afraid of the living, but of the All Mighty God, who saw everything that took place under the sun.

“Ndozvatauyira pano kuti tidzorwe munzira dzedu dzisinakururama, tidzorwe mukuita kwedu, mumatauriro, mafambiro nemagariro edu, pavepo nerugare munyika yedu yakafirwa, yakasunungurwa nevapenyu nevakaenda, tibatsire vatungamiriri vedu kuti runyararo rwuripo rwuve runyararo rwechokwadi (We are here for this Church gathering to be guided by God and the Church so that we behave ourselves, speak well and live well, so that there will be peace in the country that many people sacrificed their lives for),” said Mujuru.

Mujuru’s pleas yesterday follow recent warnings by economists and Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo that the country’s battered economy is the biggest casualty of the protracted and ugly wars wreaking havoc within Zanu PF.

Gumbo, one of only two remaining members of the Dare ReChimurenga council that directed the liberation war, said last week that the factional fights were causing “unprecedented levels of tension within the party with the result that our focus has shifted from our core business as the party of government”.

With the majority of Zimbabweans living on less than a dollar a day, and social services such as health bogged down by strikes and serious underfunding, Gumbo said it was now time that the ruling party addressed the pressing economic challenges facing the country.

“The time has come to redirect that focus back to our main purpose and to ensure that we chart the best economic way forward for the Zimbabwean people in line with our election pledges and consistent with the aspirations of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation (ZimAsset),” he said.

In a rare admission by a senior member of the ruling party of the many crises bedevilling the country, Gumbo said it was an open secret that “many of our people are struggling to make ends meet as the current economic climate, exacerbated by years of damaging economic sanctions, takes its toll”.

Referring to the current economic situation as “desperate”, Gumbo said it was time “for an urgent change of priorities”, warning that Mugabe’s legacy was also at stake.

“Anyone who seeks to push personal and factional interests at a time like this, where millions of our people are suffering and many investors are sitting on the fence pursuing a wait-and-see-approach, is not only selfish, insensitive and on the wrong side of history, but is also tarnishing the good name of the party and drawing unnecessary hatred towards the same.

“This is not only detrimental to our future electoral prospects but has the real danger of tarnishing president Mugabe’s otherwise splendid reputation and legacy,” Gumbo said.

Economic analysts also warned Mugabe and his misfiring government last week that Zanu PF’s increasingly violent factional and succession wars would sink Zimbabwe’s ailing economy to levels witnessed five years ago, unless they acted decisively now.

Respected economist John Robertson told the Daily News that the economy would persist on a downward spiral unless the country resolved its succession problem urgently.

“The people who are supposed to be directing and implementing policy are currently channelling their energies elsewhere. Under normal circumstances, we would expect the president to make strong decisions to deal with this, but unfortunately for the economy no decision has been made,” he lamented.

Robertson also said unless Mugabe made it clear soon when he would be retiring or who his preferred successor would be, uncertainty would continue to haunt the economy.

Mugabe, turning 91 soon, is the only leader that Zimbabweans have had since independence in 1980. Despite his advanced age and failing health, he has vowed to see through his current term which expires in 2018 — when he will be 95 then.

As it is, Mugabe is both Africa’s oldest leader and one of the continent’s longest ruling. In his 34 years in power, South Africa has had seven leaders, Zambia six, Malawi five, Botswana four and Mozambique four.

Economist Christopher Mugaga said the acrimony playing out in the governing party did not augur well for the country, both politically and economically.

“Statements made by people who are expected to unite a nation are more dangerous than their actions,” he said, adding that the economy was always the first casualty in the kind of anarchy that was being experienced in Zimbabwe.

“If there are issues and problems there must be a way to address them, instead of washing dirty linen in public. During the Government of National Unity there were channels that the prime minister and president used to address their differences, but more often than not never in public. This gave investors confidence about our country and to come here. As a result the economy benefited,” Mugaga said.

Even the International Monetary Fund warned last week that Zimbabwe’s economy was at a crossroads.

“The economic situation remains difficult. The post-hyperinflation rebound has ended. Gross Domestic Product growth decelerated from 10,5 percent in 2012 to 4,5 percent in 2013, due to adverse weather conditions, weak demand for key exports, and election-year uncertainty,” the IMF said.

The Bretton Woods institution said the outlook in 2014 was for continued low growth of about three percent.

“The external position is precarious, with low international reserves, a large current account deficit, an overvalued real exchange rate, and growing external arrears. Credit and deposit growth have slowed down sharply, liquidity conditions are tight, and the banking system remains weak.

“Fiscal pressures arose in early 2014 due to higher-than-budgeted wage increases and revenue shortfalls as the economy weakened,” the IMF added.