PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Saturday declared he will not let war veterans arm-twist him and his Zanu PF party into following their unrealistic demands which were divorced from the party’s objectives.
Mugabe was addressing hundreds of party supporters including cabinet ministers who thronged the Harare international airport to welcome him from a five-day visit to Japan.
The 92-year-old leader said war veterans should never imagine themselves being above the party, adding that their association was just but one of the many that claim allegiance to Zanu PF.
In a Shona address he delivered to cheering followers, Mugabe played party commissar, telling the ex-fighters that it was in fact Zanu PF as a whole which had the mandate to set the rules of the game as opposed to its meddlesome appendages.
“We can form as many associations, charitable associations, even war veterans’ associations; they are just associations,” he said.
He told that war veterans to channel their grievances through party processes as opposed to making unnecessary public demands.
Mugabe is set for an explosive meeting with war veterans from all over the country this April 7
Ahead of the meeting, both parties have been marking their territories, with war veterans saying they wanted their patron to rein in party politicians linked to G40 such as Saviour Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao.
The three have infuriated the former fighters by taking the fight for Zanu PF control to party rivals led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
There are strong suspicions the war veterans could pull a surprise and demand the Zimbabwean leader’s resignation.
Matters came to a head when Mugabe allowed his wife to hold so-called meet the people tours throughout the country, parceling out goodies and bad-mouthing party rivals.
‘We all went to war’
All has been well until the First Lady started making direct and indirect attacks on Mnangagwa for allegedly fronting a plot to oust Mugabe.
Grace’s Mashonaland Central rally early this year elicited a strong backlash from party rivals who quickly called for a crisis meeting after their leader Chris Mutsvangwa had been ousted as a result of her utterances.
The abortive meeting was blocked by anti-riot police who used water cannon trucks and tear smoke to disperse the former fights.
A subsequent apology to war veterans by Mugabe gave the militant former fighters more fuel to make demands which the Zimbabwean leader finds outrageous.
However, through Saturday’s threats to war veterans, Mugabe all but set the tone for what has always been suspected to be an explosive meeting.
He said there was nothing too special with being a war veteran, adding that he was also one.
“We all went to war. No one should boast before everyone that they have any special qualities. During the war we were clear that politics leads the gun,” he said.
“Hatitongwi neassociation, never ever, hatife takabvuma izvozvo (We will never allow associations to control us),” Mugabe said, banging the stage with his fist.
He warned party “weevils” adding that they risked being eliminated using “gamatox”.
Mugabe said if war veterans were sincere members of Zanu PF, they would not harbour any intentions to destroy it.
He said they risked expulsion from a party that has already dislodged several party bigwigs in the past 14 months.
“So those who have deviated should the party should remember to return to good ways,” Mugabe said.
The veteran leader has been under siege from war veterans who in 1999 forced him to invade the national purse to give each one of them Z$50,000 payouts which ignited what would later become Zimbabwe’s economic free fall.
Lately, Mugabe was forced into introducing a war veterans minister.