HARARE (Reuters) - Former vice president Joice Mujuru has apologized to Zimbabwe's people for her role in President Robert Mugabe's government, in a move seen by allies as a step toward challenging him for power.
Mujuru worked with Mugabe during the 1970s bush war and after independence and was until December seen as the leading candidate to succeed him.
But the veteran leader last year accused her of plotting to unseat him from office, a charge Mujuru denied. She lost her positions in government and the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Mujuru issued a public statement on Tuesday, taking blame for ZANU-PF's failure to deliver on promises to Zimbabweans and called her dismissal inevitable because her vision diverged from that of Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership.
"For my own role in this failure, I am truly sorry and I apologize to my fellow Zimbabweans," Mujuru said.
"It is a time in our history for contrition and reflection, for cleansing."
She declined to comment further when contacted by Reuters on Wednesday. Mujuru in April accused ZANU-PF of losing focus on the economy, which is slowing sharply.
No ZANU-PF spokesman was available for comment on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe holds its next presidential vote in 2018 and ZANU-PF has chosen Mugabe, who will be 94 then, as its candidate.
Mujuru, 60, is being publicly encouraged by allies to form a political party.
Former minister of state security and ZANU-PF secretary general Didymus Mutasa, who was expelled from the government and party together with Mujuru, said the former vice president would run for the top office.
"She has gone beyond thinking about it. She will contest and I am confident she will be the first female president of Zimbabwe," Mutasa told Reuters.
Eldred Masungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, called Mujuru's move "political repentance".
"She wants now to regenerate her political career but she needs first to disown skeletons, and they are many, in the ZANU-PF cupboard," Masungure said.
Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche