via War vets threaten to dump Mugabe | The Zimbabwean 10 July 2014 by Regerai Tukutuku
Disgruntled war veterans who last month invaded sugar estates in Chiredzi and were arrested have accused President Robert Mugabe of using them as political pawns.
They told The Zimbabwean they regretted campaigning for and voting Mugabe and Zanu (PF) into power in last year’s election.
The former freedom fighters said they were ordered to campaign vigorously for Zanu (PF) and Mugabe in return for sugar cane plots – but were shocked when they were arrested and fined for invading private plantations.
They spent several nights in police holding cells before appearing in court, after which they were fined $25 each or 100 days in jail. They all paid the fine.
“We were told by the party, including even our seniors in the army, that we were going to be empowered through the issuance of sugar plots if we campaigned for the party and President Mugabe,” said their spokesperson Ezra Muronda.
“But after doing all the donkey work and now that the party and Mugabe are in power, things have changed. We are tired of empty promises,” he added. War veterans leader, Jabulani Sibanda, could not be reached for a comment.
The veterans have formed a critical movement that has been used to campaign for Zanu (PF) over the years, sometimes engaging in violent acts to cow opposition supporters.
They were used as foot soldiers who violently removed close to 5,000 white commercial farmers from their land since 2000, with a substantial number being awarded with plots and promotions in the military sector.
The Chiredzi group vowed to keep pressure on the party leadership to honour their pre-election promises. “We could not believe it when the police came and arrested us. Remember we led farm invasions countrywide and all we are saying is that we want to enter the lucrative sugar industry,” said Muronda.
One of those arrested, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, said he would dump the ruling party if he did not get a cane plot.
“We are elderly people with families to look after and if a party continues to use you and later cheats you, the best thing to do is to dump that party,” he said.
The Zanu (PF) spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, denied that the war veterans were promised sugar cane plots. “The party never made any promise to any single section of our members but to the people of Zimbabwe as a whole,” he added. It has also emerged this week that the war veterans who invaded sugar cane plots owned by sugar milling giant Tongaat Hulett had the blessing of two cabinet ministers.
Although the ministers (names withheld) could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press, it is understood that they are the ones who put pressure on the war veterans pressure to demand what they were promised during the run-up to last year’s election.
Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister, Douglas Mombeshora, said he was not aware of the promises. “We have a government policy of resettlement and we expect everyone including war veterans to respect those policies,” said Mombeshora. “We are not going to allow any more farm invasions.”
The Zanu (PF) politburo recently ordered all party members and top securocrats who had invaded farms and conservancies to leave, but they remain put, insisting that a national land audit be conducted before they will move.