Bridget Mananavire 13 April 2017
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday used the burial of the late
Brigadier General James Murozvi to reignite his feud with war veterans –
who he bluntly said were not special – in addition to rebuffing their
growing calls for the nonagenarian to step down now and pave the way for a
Most interestingly, Mugabe’s unexpected outburst was in stark contrast to
Tuesday’s address by the commander of the defence forces, General
Constantino Chiwenga, who paid a moving tribute to the war veterans for
the role they played both in the country’s liberation struggle war and in
Addressing mourners gathered at Murozvi’s burial at the National Heroes
Acre in Harare yesterday, Mugabe told the disgruntled ex-combatants that
they had no right to dictate to him how he was supposed to run Zanu PF.
“Not once did he (Murozvi) cause havoc, to say oh, government you are
messing up. He was different in character from other people who think that
when they are war veterans they have a right to dictate how things are run
in the party. No, he was well focused.
“Yes, we are war veterans, we are back, we were fighting for the people of
Zimbabwe, we have a party that leads us . . . not one that we have a right
“In that party, yes, we hope as war veterans to be recognised for the work
we did, so that we agree with the ideology . . . as we should always agree
that politics leads the gun.
“So, he (Murozvi) was a straight man. That is what we ask of you (war
vets),” Mugabe thundered.
“That we have love and understanding, so that we have the right
ideological direction that we are not any different from everyone else.
“We are together with them (ordinary citizens), that today we suffer
together with everyone else . . . being a war veteran or anything . . . we
should be united . . . there is no difference.
“There should be no difference. We must unite, being led by the party,
Zanu PF . . . direction, direction, direction,” Mugabe, who turned up for
yesterday’s solemn occasion sporting a shaved head, added.
The increasingly frail nonagenarian has been having a tough time with a
large section of war veterans ever since they issued a scathing statement
on him in mid July last year.
Some of the Zanu PF bigwigs who were at the National Heroes Acre yesterday
told the Daily News that the 93-year-old’s statement was “worryingly at
odds” with the effusive praise that Chiwenga had given the war veterans
during a military parade for Murozvi at One Commando barracks on Tuesday.
“Your blood has indeed watered the Zimbabwe Flag as we used to sing during
the war of liberation. You have fought your fight.
“Ours is to continue it, pursuing with vigour, our role as the war
veterans of the liberation struggle, of being the ideological school of
the nation, custodians of the revolution and the bedrock upon which our
party, Zanu PF, shall continue to build itself for as long as we survive,”
Chiwenga said in his speech then.
Former freedom fighters have been feuding with Mugabe ever since they
broke their 41-year relationship with him mid last year, over their
worsening plight and the country’s deepening political and economic rot.
Until that time, the fed-up ex-combatants had served as Mugabe and Zanu
PF’s pillars, waging particularly brutal campaigns against opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, especially in the bloody elections
of 2000 and 2008.
Their stunning fallout with Mugabe and Zanu PF later saw their
chairperson, Christopher Mutsvangwa, being fired from both the Cabinet and
the ruling party last year, while many of their other top leaders were
also banished from the imploding former liberation movement, in addition
to being hauled before the courts.
Previous meetings to try and mend relations between the war vets and
Mugabe have failed to resolve the stalemate, with the former freedom
fighters setting difficult conditions for the nonagenarian, including that
he ditches alleged Generation 40 (G40) kingpins such as Higher Education
minister Jonathan Moyo and the ruling party’s national political
commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.
In recent weeks, they have also ratcheted up their calls for Mugabe to
retire and pave the way for his long time aide and deputy, Emmerson
Mnangagwa, to take over the reins at both party and government levels.
Since their fallout with Mugabe first burst out into the open, after they
released their damning communique in which they savaged the Zanu PF leader
before serving him with divorce papers, the ex-combatants have not missed
an opportunity to take pot shots at Mugabe.
They have also claimed that Mugabe’s continued stay in power was now a
stumbling block to the country’s development, adding rather contemptuously
that the nonagenarian would be “a hard-sell” if he ever contemplated
contesting next year’s presidential poll.
Mugabe responded to all this 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.
Immediately after this threat, police swooped on some of the war veterans
executive members who were arraigned before the courts, which eventually
set them free.