PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has come out hard on under fire War Veterans Minister Chris Mutsvangwa whom he accused of going around his leadership to call for an unsanctioned meeting with the country’s liberators.
Mugabe was speaking during an ad hoc state of the nation address televised live Friday on ZTV.
He also took time to berate party politicians he said were exposing his failing leadership to unnecessary ridicule through endless feuding.
But first, Mugabe singled out the ousted war veterans chairman for strong rebuke.
“I don’t know in which capacity he invited the war veterans, but it doesn’t manner in which capacity, even if he invited them as chairperson of war veterans, he was still minister, their minister,” he said.
Mugabe spoke slowly, showing no facial expression but hardly able to sit still in his chair as he went through his off the cuff, 30-minute address.
He was speaking nearly 24 hours after the abortive meeting which was set to be addressed by Mutsvangwa and his embattled war veterans leadership at the City Sports Centre in Harare was violently broken by anti-riot police.
Mugabe took umbrage with one of his fiercest defenders’ decision to call for the abortive meeting without even informing him as war veterans patron, the country’s security ministers and fellow cabinet colleagues as well as the party.
Because of that, Mugabe said, he could only conclude Mutsvangwa harboured ulterior motives which he demanded the former Zimbabwean ambassador to China to explain.
“And if the intention was a demonstration, demonstrating against what? A government of which he is a minister! If it was to express grievances, what grievances?”
The veteran leader was flanked by his two deputies Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko who both never uttered any word.
Mugabe said he appointed Mutsvangwa as the country’s first ever war veterans minister, in the process giving him the strategic proximity to cabinet through which he could channel all war veterans’ grievances.
“For him to have called a meeting about which we knew nothing, in circumstances in which he had not clearly sought permission from the authorities, in violation therefore of the law, he being a minister, he cannot at the end of it all after the law and order officers had taken action against the meeting and the war veterans complain that they were ill-treated
“He must bear the responsibility to have invited the war veterans in the name of the president telling them that the president would want to address them when in fact the president did not know about it, his invitation of them is to disabuse his authority as minister in the gravest way possible.
“We take exception to that; he has acted in a manner we describe as irresponsible, completely irresponsible…”
Mugabe said the debacle left his government “disgraced, blemished, criticised and people were beginning to wonder whether we were governing properly in accordance with the rules.”
Everybody shut up!
He continued, “People (war veterans) were naturally hurt or at least they had this water from the cannons down their bodies, let alone the teargas in their eyes, we regret that they suffered this but the man to blame is their chairman and their minister and of course he will have to answer as minister why he has done it without authority.”
“…when there is this negativity and clandestine, completely surreptitious way of doing things, one wonders whether Minister Mutsvangwa is one and all with the rest of us.”
The Zimbabwean leader said sarcastically that if at all Mutsvangwa’s meeting was for war veterans, it should still not have excluded him and his deputies, since they were also war veterans.
Mugabe also noted the sharp divisions that have rocked his party which he said had left the first couple open to all manner of abuse.
“Our culture never allows a young person even an elder to abuse another but now you get you are all being abused, the President, his wife in a manner that is very disgraceful, it’s a shame.
“…So those who are saying ah we belong to this faction or that other faction, I say to them shut up, you belong to Zimbabwe first and foremost, whatever you might say.
“Shut up and let us not hear any divisive voices from you. The G40s (pro-Grace Mugabe) or what you call Lacoste (pro-Mnangagwa) or whatever shut up!”