HARARE – Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) have vowed they will go to the ends of the earth to try and stop Zanu PF from its plans to depose them by causing election of a new leadership.
This comes as First Lady Grace Mugabe and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi on Saturday put pressure on War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube to hold fresh elections to choose a new executive.
The ZNLWVA leadership has been rowing with President Robert Mugabe ever since the ex-combatants served divorce papers on their former patron in July last year.
War veterans’ spokesperson Douglas Mahiya yesterday told the Daily News that the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led association would remain in office until the next congress due in 2019.
“The ZNLWVA is registered with the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare as a private voluntary organisation and not under the ministry of Defence.
“The ministry of War Veterans, War Collaborators, Former Political Detainees and Restrictees has no authority over the affairs of the association. We will fight that extraordinary congress at the courts. Our congress is due in 2019 and only then will it take place,” said Mahiya.
Mahiya also described Zanu PF bigwigs calling for their ouster as “wolves howling to the wind”.
“Mugabe who knows better ignored the clamour against our executive. In any event, the courts are there to thwart Sekeramayi’s day dreams on ZNLWVA and all the (Generation 40) G40 wolves barking to the wind.
“That congress will not happen,” added the forthright Mahiya.
Mugabe and Zanu PF have been struggling to wrest the association from Mutsvangwa’s claws for the past two years, and an attempt to impose Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister, Mandi Chimene, hit a brick wall when the High Court ruled that she had no legal right over the association.
The Chimene faction of the war veterans has also failed to attract the majority of the former freedom fighters who still pledge loyalty to Mutsvangwa.
At a youth interface rally in Bindura on Saturday, Zanu PF bigwigs took turns to slam Mutsvangwa, his deputy Headman Moyo, the association’s secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, Mahiya and its political commissar Francis Nhando, describing them as rogue war veterans who had rebelled against the party.
The harshest criticisms came from Zanu PF national secretary for war veterans’ affairs, Sekeramayi who said there should be an extraordinary congress of the association which would bring in new faces.
“Those five are aware that there are plans for an elective congress to elect a new leadership and we know they will try to move around campaigning against it. If you see them, ignore them,” Sekeramayi said.
Speaking at the same youth interface rally, Grace also said Mutsvangwa and his colleagues deserved to be sacked from Zanu PF because they had become a problem.
She claimed that commander of the defence forces General Constantino Chiwenga handpicked Mutsvangwa to lead the war vets under the pretext that he had been sent by Mugabe.
“I want to tell you the truth about Mutsvangwa. He was not elected. We are constantly being intimidated and threatened by Mutsvangwa that Mnangagwa has the support of the army.
“Mutsvangwa akanotorwa uko naChiwenga akanzi president ndovarikuda iwewe (Mutsvangwa was brought by Chiwenga and told that the president wanted him to lead the war veterans). President havana kumbobvira vadaro (the president never said that). President is a very democratic person,” Grace said.
“So, Mutsvangwa deserved to go. He deserved to leave this party. Nekuti iny’any’a (he is troublesome). Haana kukwana (He is not normal). Pasi naye (down with him),” she added.
Mutsvangwa said he had no time to respond to Grace’s accusations.
“I am a revolutionary. I don’t comment on hyperactive nonentities. The man who mattered most, the president, dispensed with frivolities and made quite a refreshing speech today (Saturday) in Bindura when he talked about real challenges that we face in building the modern statecraft,” he said.
The fallout between Mugabe and the ex-combatants burst into the public domain in July last year after they released a damning communiqué in which they savaged the Zanu PF leader before serving him with divorce papers, and bringing to an end a relationship that dates back to the days of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war.
The war veterans also said pointedly that Mugabe’s continued stay in power was now a stumbling block to the country’s development, adding almost maliciously that the nonagenarian would be “a hard-sell” if he ever contemplated contesting next year’s elections. Mugabe responded by warning the war veterans that they would be dealt with severely, including through the use of extra-judicial suppression methods that his former liberation movement incorporated during the country’s independence war — such as incarcerating dissenters in inhuman dungeons where they were forced to live like caged rats.
After this, police duly launched a savage crackdown against the war vets leadership and arrested five officials, including Matemadanda and Mahiya who were set free by the courts.
Over the years, war veterans have served as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.