via Mugabe fears war veterans – DailyNews Live 7 November 2014 by Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – Although the leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has been asking for a meeting with their patron, President Robert Mugabe, for a long time, he has yet to oblige to their request, raising concern in some Zanu PF quarters that he fears or dislikes meeting the war vets.
The ZNLWVA, currently led by well-known former guerrilla fighter Jabulani Sibanda, claims that it has unsuccessfully tried for the past 22 years to meet with Mugabe to look into the welfare of war veterans and to strategise about saving Zanu PF from collapse.
Mugabe’s “perplexing” refusal to formally meet with the war veterans has continued despite the former guerrilla fighters consistently putting their bodies on the line to secure election victories for both him and Zanu PF.
“The truth of the matter is that we have had several attempts to meet His Excellency (HE) without success. The last time we met HE was in 1992, at our first congress,” ZNLWVA secretary for publicity, James Kaunye, said yesterday at the end of a war veterans’ meeting in Harare.
“We are trying now, even under these conditions, to meet the president and give the correct perspective (around the welfare of war vets and the state of Zanu PF),” he added.
Senior party and government officials tried very hard to sabotage yesterday’s meeting, going on a massive propaganda drive in State media this week and claiming that the meeting would not take place.
As a result, some Zanu PF officials now say Mugabe fears engaging with genuine war veterans who helped secure Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 because he allegedly knows that they feel “terribly let down” by the party’s leadership.
“Mugabe cannot face genuine war vets because he knows that he and other senior party leaders have terribly let down these brave men and women, who are as poor as they were before they went to war while chefs are swimming in luxury,” a Zanu PF central committee member who requested anonymity said yesterday.
Mugabe rubbished ZNLWVA leader Sibanda last week after the latter warned that war veterans would not countenance a “bedroom coup” in Zanu PF, in apparent reference to First Lady Grace Mugabe’s entrance into Zanu PF politics and her subsequent vicious attacks on Vice President Joice Mujuru.
The Zanu PF leader also warned war veterans that the military would crush Sibanda and his comrades if they dared to demonstrate and march against him at State House.
But despite the snub by Mugabe, the war vets are still confident of finally getting an opportunity to meet him to have “clear-the-air talks” ahead of next month’s crucial party elective congress.
“It is 100 percent ( certain) that we are going to meet him before congress. We want to clear the air so that everything will be clarified,” Shadreck Makombe, ZNWLVA secretary-general told journalists yesterday.
The beleaguered Sibanda was also in attendance at yesterday’s meeting, where he was instructed to go meet “our patron HE R G Mugabe”.
The war veterans urged the ruling party to close ranks and to “desist from this self-destructive factionalism, avoid involving us in those divisive acts and concentrate on the duties bestowed upon them by the masses”.
An ugly succession war pitting supporters of Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has left the ruling party deeply divided and on the verge of collapse.
So stark are the divisions that there are accusations that Mnangagwa’s faction has hatched a well-calculated plan to push out party chairpersons perceived to be loyal to the beleaguered Mujuru, who is accused of corruption, ineptitude and fanning factionalism, among other damaging allegations.
With the economy teetering on the brink, and government service suffering as a result, the war veterans who gathered in Harare said yesterday that the ongoing fights rocking Zanu PF were a betrayal of all the people who fought to free this country from colonial bondage.
“Why are you wasting your time in search of perceived enemies among yourselves instead of service delivery to the nation? We, as freedom fighters, view the current happenings as a betrayal to the masses and all our comrades who sacrificed their lives so we could enjoy the fruits of a liberated Zimbabwe,” said Kaunye.
“What is happening in our party today is a complete insult to the people and a disregard to their wishes, for the mandate that we got was to deliver pundutso (better lives) to the people,” he added.
Analysts also fear that Mugabe’s bid to influence the ouster of Sibanda, who was constitutionally elected to lead the war veterans, could cause a split along tribal lines in the ruling party, as well as lead to heightened intra-party violence.
Often seen as restive, war veterans have in the past had their way against Mugabe, managing to arm-twist him to accede to their demands, some of which, such as unaffordable payments, have been instrumental in destabilising the country’s economy.
In 1997, they forced Mugabe to award them once-off and unbudgeted Z$50 000 gratuities each, following a demonstration over the looting of the War Victims Compensation Fund.
Grace Mugabe’s brother — the late Reward Marufu — was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the loot, pocketing a staggering $Z800 000 then, after claiming nearly 98 percent disability as a result of alleged war injuries.
The Zimbabwe dollar subsequently crashed against the United States dollar and other major currencies as a result of the unbudgeted payments.