Mugabe and the War Veterans – NEWS & ANALYSIS

via Mugabe and the War Veterans – NEWS & ANALYSIS | Politicsweb 05 April 2016

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is heading  – unsteadily on his 92-year-old legs – towards a meeting this week that threatens to be either his undoing, or that of the country’s tottering economy.In the City Sports Stadium next to Harare’s business centre he is due to hold talks with some 10,000 members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), a barbarous militia which he has used to keep him out of trouble since 2000 when he was seriously challenged for the first time by a national wave of sentiment for democracy.

The last time Mugabe was confronted by the “warvets,” ex-guerillas from the uprising against the white-run Rhodesian government, was in August 1997 when they wanted a staggeringly large increase in their monthly pension payments. Led by Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, a Polish-trained medical doctor with a dubious war background and a talent for extortion and brutality, about 40 of them confronted him in a secret meeting at his official residence in Harare and told him they would effectively have him deposed if he refused.

The meeting was one of the most significant events in the country’s post-independence history, but the local media regarded it as too sensitive to report, and the foreign correspondents who picked it up couldn’t believe it. Mugabe had caved in to the veterans, and ordered his finance minister to give each one of their 40,000-odd members a one-off payment of Zimbabwean dollars 50,000 (then about US$6,250) costing some Zimbabwe dollars 2 billion, and a permanent monthly stipend of Zimbabwe $2,000.

With a jolt it set off the beginning of the Zimbabwe economy’s descent to hyperinflation and ruin. “Who ever heard of a country going bankrupt?” he asked. Three months later, on November 14, the Zimbabwe dollar plunged 72 percent, and the day is remembered as “Black Friday” and it set off the crash of virtually every other economic indicator.

Mugabe didn’t give a hoot. He had bought the war veterans loyalty and from then on used them as a rabble of thug mercenaries.

Their first assignment came on December 11 that year when about 5,000 pro-democracy supporters marched peacefully in the streets of Harare, calling for political change. They were met by a column of warvets, who set about them with bricks, barbed wire, clubs, whips, and tyre levers. Miraculously no-one was killed but the effect of the brutal assault was to ensure that that there hasn’t been another large demonstration against Mugabe.

They were used as the primary enforcers in Mugabe’s land grab that started the next year, brutalising white farmers, their families and their workers, and at the same time against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, in a reign of murder, rape, torture and destruction.

Ahead of every election now, war veterans are deployed across the country’s rural areas to terrorise villagers into voting for Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party. In the public “outreach” period to gauge what ordinary people wanted in a new constitution in 2013, the veterans ensured that villager after villager declared without variation that they wanted Mugabe as president and to have as many terms as he wanted.

The veterans like to characterise themselves with words like “valiant,” “courageous,” “gallant” and ”heroic.” The fact is that they carry out their missions in the knowledge that they are guaranteed complete immunity from any official interference.

In the beginning authorities took a little while to afford them immunity. In 2000 local television showed a group of warvets who had seized a farm north of the western city of Bulawayo. The owner called the police who arrived and marched on the invaders. The veterans fled in mayhem.

In February this year the veterans’ chairman, Chris Mutsvangwa, called a meeting where they expected they would meet Mugabe and spell out to him their dislike of his wife and her political ambitions. Several hundred of them were met on their way by riot police with tear-gas and water cannon. They scattered in disarray. A handful of minor injuries were reported. “We equate such brutality to the South African Marikana scenario,” said Mutsvangwa.

Judith Todd, the daughter of the late liberal former prime minister of Rhodesia, devoted herself from independence in 1980 to the welfare of war veterans. In 1981 the government formed a demobilisation directorate, she pointed out in a letter published widely here in 1997. A total of 41,000 were demobilised, and immediately were paid Zimbabwe dollars 185 (when the local currency was equivalent to British Sterling 2.00) a month for two years.

She detailed the “many, many agencies” that ‘”poured millions of dollars” into schemes to assist ex-combatants. She went on: “It can be safely said that no other group in this country has since independence received greater assistance than the ex-combatants.

“A war affects everyone, particularly in the rural areas. It is not helpful … to assert that one group (war veterans) is more important than any other. This leads to ex-combatants believing years after conflict has ended that they still have the right to special resources from the state.”

Last week an official of the war veterans’ association declared that it had registered 34,500 veterans, meaning that since 1981, only 6,500 have died. It suggests that the group has passed through the AIDS epidemic, chronic hypertension and diabetes virtually unscathed. Youths who were 18 when they joined the movement immediately before independence in 1980, would be 54 now. A major chunk of the war veterans who joined earlier and when they were older than 18, could be expected to be well into their seventies now.

Tendai Biti, the pro-democracy MDC party’s minister of finance in the 2009-2013 coalition government, was responsible for budgets that included drafting assessments for war veterans’ pensions. He scoffs at the association’s figures. “There couldn’t be more than 15,000 now, according to my calculations.”

Whatever the difference between the two figures, Biti says, “the irony is that as war veterans disappear and die of old age, the budget (for war veteran pensions) is increasing instead.”

Figures published annually in the government’s budget provisions show that in 2010, the amount set aside for war veteran pensions was US$58 million. Five years later the figure had increased to US$105.5 million – an increase of 45 percent.

“We now have war veterans who are 25 years of age,” said Biti. ”The challenge is that the process has been corrupted by shadowy elements who have been added to the list. The whole system needs thorough vetting.”

The previous chairman of the war veterans’ association was Jabulani Sibanda, a youthful looking man who would never tell reporters when he was born. Investigations published in the local media reported that he was 10 when the war ended.

The veterans appear now to be shifting out of favour, as political tremors begin to shake Zimbabwe’s political landscape as never before and fissures in the ruling ZANU(PF) party widen. And the principle cause of the disturbance is Grace Mugabe, the president’s 50-year-old wife. At his advanced age, coupled with frequent secret visits to a hospital in Singapore in the last week, discussion of his likely successor has become more heated than ever.

The war veterans, in common with most of the country, dislike her for her arrogant, loud and charmless manner, and say so. “It’s clear now that the country is being run by whores and gays,” a veteran shouted as riot police descended on them in February. “Who is Grace?” demanded another. “There is no first lady in the constitution. We want the president to come clean on this.”

Mugabe has repeatedly defended her, condemning “this trend these days where … people in the party disrespect the party leadership, insulting even my wife, the wife of the president!”

But the fundamental reason underlying the veterans’ hostility towards Grace is that the movement is regarded as among the most important backers of vice-president Emmerson Munangagwa in his pursuit – which he fiercely denies – to succeed Mugabe. And Mugabe – though he also denies it – is seen as carefully grooming Grace for the job.

The war veterans are the only group in the country that doesn’t kneel at the feet of the president. The past few weeks have seen them sniping openly at the “the first family.”

When this week’s meeting was first mooted, the veterans insisted that the issue of Mugabe’s successor, as well as demands for fatter pensions, was on the table. Statements from Mugabe’s office do not refer to the political business, but only to their pensions.

It will be a strenuous test on Thursday for the aged Mugabe to face and win over the war veterans. Rather than trying to bully them into silence, he is likely to use bribery, with vastly increased gratuities from the country’s forlorn fiscus.

The veterans want Mugabe to make a commitment towards stepping down, clearing the way for their unofficial patron, Munangagwa. They cannot be expected to sit mutely through a Mugabe diatribe. He will need all of what is left of his prodigious cunning to survive. The monster he created is ready to consume him.


  • comment-avatar
    Piankhi 6 years ago

    All things come to a end. The laws of nature cannot be defeated. One has to see things clearly. You can try to defy mother nature, but mother nature ultimately wins.

    I understand the War Vets and their vision for change as they fought for everyone in the country that is here today.

    I understand the President also. But ultimately things have to change. The vision of 35 years ago, is far gone. Why? Change. Nothing stay the same. It time for renewal.

    That is the only way you can progress.

  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 6 years ago

    We asked and were not given, we knocked and the door was not opened. Is it not time to just break down the door?

    • comment-avatar
      Piankhi 6 years ago

      Yes it is time for you to break the door down. But the question is: Do you have they have the heart to not listen to any for stories. Are you going to settle for small offerings to keep you quit or you going to say, enough is enough, it is time for him to go?

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    Overall, the whore-vets are stupid. Very stupid. They are unable (too stupid and lazy) to earn a living, over the last 36 years.

    How many blacks did the whore vets kill during the war? far, far more than the Rhodesian army.

    These buggers are nothing more than idle, useless and morally bankrupt thugs – which is why they have propped up that other morally bankrupt thug, Mugabe.

    • comment-avatar
      Mazano Rewayi 6 years ago

      kwv, it’s not really the war vets that are a problem, it is the national “leadership” that steers the ship without a compass and the general populace that allows the circus to continue.

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        Piankhi 6 years ago

        Wow!!!! Whores? Really? I just look and observe the way my people treat each other. African people. We have no love for each other, no unity for each other, do not care about the next generate we bring to this earth. All my people do is act like animals of prey to each other. It seems the only thing that is important to my people is to acquire that green piece of paper call the dollar. The same dollar that has this pictures of slave owners on them, the same dollar that my people where sold into slavery over. The same piece of paper that your white oppressors have made you to become and worship in their image to mistreat each other and kill each other. We do nothing as African people but hurt each other, just as our former oppressors did. This is what the legacy of racism white supremacy has left us. And my people take that legacy and continue the madness amongst ourselves. My African people have become a willing participant in our own self destruction. It is sad how we have been taught to chase a piece of paper called the dollar. That at any moment the white man could cut it off from Zimbabwe using it. Then what? We have everything that white people came to this continent to take and go build their countries on our resources and the only thing my people learned was the way of their oppressor. We gave up our culture, our ancestors, our way of life, all too just to imitate the madness that white people left us. We have a jealousy to each other that has been embedded in our spirit, as we live the white man’s spirit and nature now. But it has only a black face on it now. All my people do is live in self made chaos now. From the leadership, down to the people. They have been taught to chase the white man’s way of life and disregard our culture and real way of life. And then you pray to the white man God that they forced on our people. His God will not hear you or help you no matter how long you pray on your knees. Only our Ancestors will hear us now. And the longer we ignore our ancestors and pray to our enemies ancestors my people will suffer. We talk about the leadership of this country and Africa which has been taught by our oppressors to keep them engaged and they keep our attention so we cannot do the work we need to rise as a people. The president of Zimbabwe is just a product of colonial teachings and he filters that down to his people not knowing his has been tricked. You see the fact is, a slave and a slave master cannot worship the same God. Because while you are praying to his God for freedom and equality. Your master is praying to the same God to keep you oppressed. And as you see his God has been answering him always. Because those are his ancestors, not yours. As I read all this madness that is going on in the country everyday about politics and who wants to be in charge for mostly their own selfish reasons, they keep trying to convince the people this is in their best interest. But the facts say different as you look at the suffering of the people and all they do is entrust their life to the same people elite that say they love their people. Which as you can see are all lies from the top down. White people have left African people a culture of madness to live by, while the white people sit back and watch our leaders self destruct, and then our leaders will get on their knees and ask the same white devils to come back in and assist them to survive. Just look at the current facts. White people stole our lands, and have mad untold fortunes over the past 100 years. Native Zimbabweans the government take back the land from the white thieves, and give it back to its people with no plans on how to make it work for the benefit of our people. This leadership then goes back to its own people that it distributed the land too, only to steal it back from its own people. The Elite blacks that is. This is including in high government also. And then continue to do nothing with the land. At the same time the whites that stole the land are now just waiting to see how much more time it will take for government to come back to them begging for help and considering paying them the whites compensation on land that their white forefathers stole in the first place as if they have some type of rights to receive anything for what they have done to the people of this country and in Africa. They steal Zimbabeans land, make the laws to keep it and create title deeds to say the stolen land is theirs, and now say native Zimbabweans took it from its rightful owner. You see the madness in their scheme that my people have fallen for. Now we have Cinamasa considering having conversations with the same thieves to give them monies on land they received from their forefathers that stole it from native Zimbabweans. And the question is why you would have a conversation with thieves unless you are stupid and weak, or both. The IMF comes here to say the only way they will give Zimbabwe more debt they cannot afford to pay, is to pay the IMF $1.8 billion in arrears and then the IMF will give Zimbabwe back $900 million in more debt. Which mean Zimbabwe will never be free of these blood suckers but they have no other alternative as Zimbabwe has a group of worthless people running its finances and do nothing but beg white people and the Asian countries for dollars, while they laugh at this country knowing all the trillions of dollars of resource they have in the ground in this country and are useless to do anything with these resources because you have ignorant and arrogant people that have been put in positions of power that are weak in all that they do. These are the facts. No one in government is willing to say. We need help, but not from our enemies because no deal you cut with your enemies will ever be better for you.

        You see Zimbabwe has a government built on greed and corruption that was the same as their oppressor where running before Zimbabwe so called independence. What is Zimbabwe independent from? There is still a corrupt government that has corrupted the people in the same thinking at the private sector as the government rules its own coffers. So it like the father and mother has taught their children to reflect their ways of life. And look at the country now. So thank your father and mother of the country, for the misbehaving children.

        My people here always say respect your elders no matter what they teach their children the wrong way to live. And when that father and mother tell their children they are never wrong in their thinking in what they teach their children. But the children are now living in chaos. Who do you blame? The child or the parents. Back to the start with the war vets. They can only ask for things because the father has not treated his children with love and respect. So now they have only become an extension of the father’s actions.

        Zimbabeans need to stop and look, listen, and learn. It is not about one person that says all is right as they command. The power is and always has been in the people. Zimbabweans people are humble and mostly have good hearts, and peaceful. In the Bible that my people believe in so much. There is a passage. CHILDREN HONOR YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER, SO THAT YOUR DAYS MAY BE LONG. BUT PARENTS DO NOT PROVOKE YOUR CHILDREN TO ANGER. Question is: Have the children honored the father and mother for the past 36 years? Or have the children been provoke into anger, by the father and mother that have misguided them?

        Point is, you can love and respect your parents their entire life. But are the children taught wrong behavior from their parents. What else would you expect from the children of the next generation?

        Zimbabwe, wrong is wrong, no matter who teaches you these things. Clear your thoughts of yesterday. And create for new change today. I love my people so dearly around the world. But now it is time over for blaming and bad behavior. Parents hold your children accountable for the bad things they do. But parent teach them better not to have bad behavior. Because at the end. Parents are still responsible for what their children do, by what they have taught them.

        Change is the only thing that is constant in our existence a human beings. And if you go against the natural order of change you will suffer. Love and respect each other my African people. We can blame anybody we like for our ills. But look in the mirror and you will see the problem and the solution at the same time. It is never too late to change. Peace

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          Yeah its everyone elses fault, definitely not the African mans – before the white man came there were rivers of chocolate and everyone was really really nice to each other. Dick.

  • comment-avatar
    Doris 6 years ago

    Jabulani Sibanda was born in 1970. Google it!