Mugabe uses war veterans like diapers

via Mugabe uses war veterans like diapers 12 November 2014 by Tawanda Majoni

President Robert Mugabe is the patron of the war veterans – but he has not formally met them since 1992! In fact, he met them once – when they launched the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association. I have no doubt he would have said no if he had any choice in the matter. He must have agreed to address them as a public relations gimmick because they had decided to make him their patron, so he had to be nice to them then.

Clearly, Mugabe has never liked the war veterans. He treats them with contempt and does not feel comfortable with them representing a power node that could pose a real threat to his political base. This is the confusing reality, considering the passion with which he wants everyone to feel that the war of liberation is the be-all and end-all of Zimbabwe’s history, present and future. There is no way in which one can be so passionate about the war without being equally sentimental about the people who wielded the guns that killed the colonisers.

Just recently, I discussed this issue with an old friend and one of the founders of the vets’ association, Margaret Dongo. She was poignant on the matter: “Mugabe uses war veterans like diapers. He remembers them when he needs them and throws them away when he is comfortable with his wife at home. The truth is, he has never liked them.”

There is plenty of evidence against the Old Man in this regard. Legend has it that Mugabe never tried to learn how to use a gun and never stepped out of tent to find out at first-hand how the war was being fought. They say he detests guns and would rather be reading a book instead of running and ducking in the bushes. At independence, when he constituted the first majority government, Mugabe remembered some intellectuals and brought them close to him. He wanted people who could think and yet not think sufficiently. That is why the first government had the dominating presence of the likes of Bernard Chidzero and Simba Makoni.

He didn’t want the filthy, mosquito-bitten ex-combatants to be spoiling the game for him. Of course, he also included former guerilla fighters, but that is because they were too smart and strong to be left behind. There is no way Mugabe could have dumped Eddison Zvobgo and Edgar Tekere, for instance. They had sharp brains, which is one thing Mugabe has a soft spot for. They had also used guns during the war, but Mugabe had to compromise and walk with them.

Needless, to say, neither man lasted very long. They could not keep their mouths closed when Mugabe started messing up. Tekere had no choice but to move out and form the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD) that contested against Mugabe and Zanu (PF) at the polls in 1990.

Zvobgo sent Dzikamai Mavhaire to tell Parliament that “Mugabe must go” and the dear leader was livid with him. When he finally died, Zvobgo was a mere ceremonial cabinet minister because he was too clever and too brave for his boss.

The point is, Mugabe has always preferred working with people who didn’t know his past very well. That way, they felt beholden to him and were easily persuaded that they were privileged to be associating with him. There was a political strategy in that. He manipulated them as part of his divide and rule tactics. The intellectual – and therefore smart – guys became useful as tools to counter those that fought in the war.

Have you ever wondered why Mugabe still puts faith in the likes of Jonathan Moyo? Just look at the “splendid” job Moyo is doing against Joice Mujuru at the moment. Mujuru, a war veteran herself, has grown too strong. She knows Mugabe well, having been at the war front with him and having worked with him as a cabinet minister since independence.

Now it’s time for her to go because she apparently wants his throne, and that is why Moyo is part of the fight to undermine her. Mugabe is fully conscious of the fact that war veterans still possess some stamina to get rid of him if they finally gather the guts to do so. But he is not yet ready to go, so ex-combatants must live on the periphery.

Mugabe was always opposed to the formation of the war veterans association because he suspected that the ex-freedom fighters might one day turn against him. Efforts to set up the movement started in the 1980s. The late Solomon Mujuru was an active member in its formation, and so were Sydney Sekeramayi and Dongo. However, it was only in 1992 when the association was finally established. Prior to that, there was a lot of backbiting and deliberate plots to undermine the process. Moles were sent to meetings and before the organisers could step out of the venue, Mugabe would be aware of what had transpired. By the way, there were no cell phones, no WhatsApp and no SMSs in those days.

Even though the war veterans finally pressured government to give them compensation in 1997, Mugabe did not like the fact that they were mobilising each other. “Who is not a war veteran, after all?” I remember him asking that year. His fear was that, after getting the compensation, the war veterans might start baying for his throne. Yet there is no need for him to worry too much.

Most of those people who call themselves war veterans—rightly or otherwise—are just a bunch of brainwashed people who believe Mugabe is immortal. That is why they stood too ready to march into and grab the commercial farms during the land redistribution heydays and to intimidate non-Zanu (PF) supporters during elections and vow their undying allegiance to the Old Man. They are useful when his power is threatened. I wonder what would happen if one of the war veterans with real power stands up against Mugabe.

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    kalulu 6 years ago

    Well written article. One wonders whether these war veterans who are always ready to jump when mugabe needs them are genuine war veterans and if so really knew why they were fighting Ian Smith who mugabe later tended to have asoft spot for.War veterans should be respectable people for the significant role they played during the war but now they are presenting themselves as brainless people who can be tossed around without raising any question and if asked to jump their only response is “how high”.

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    Tjingababili 6 years ago


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    Rwendo 6 years ago

    ZANLA forces – from whence one part of the war veterans arose – were supposedly politicized soldiers. I began to look upon the War Vets with jaundiced eyes when they demanded those $50,000 handouts at a time when the ZCTU (more traditionally associated with demanding pay increases) was calling on Mugabe to tackle the economic fundamentals, first and foremost. The supposed political orientation of the War Vets had evaporated like dew in the morning sun.

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    I am a war vet myself and I know for certain that Chinotimba is not a war vet.I don’t know about Jabu Sibanda as he was not from Zanla. I have investigated where Chinos in particular came from in the war and I find nothing. He does not say a thing about his war history where he was trained which sector he operated in, who his commander was etc. Those are questions we ask each other as war vets when vetting each other. Chinos can’t answer any of these. The War Vets association was headed by fake war vets since the time of Hunzwi who we all know was not a vet according to Zipra. The only genuine war vet I know was Justice Charles Hungwe who I know operated in Gaza during the war. Ask him if I am lying. Noone has looked into who these so called war vets really are. Most of them are a bunch of imposters and crooks. We formed the war vet association to fight for the welfare of ex combatants and to be apolitical. But fake Hunzwi turned it into a political monster. Hunzwi had issues relating to the war victims compensation fund which he had abused. He wanted protection from Mugabe and so started singing praises much to our anger. I can write a book on this but Can’t do it here. Now you know.

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    Nyoni 6 years ago

    Why write about the war credentials of so called War vets here . Expose these crooks to the whole world to see. These are the same crooks who have taken the nation for a ride. Some of my genuine war vet comrades are sick to death of these scum but are scared to act as they know the outcome. I WRITE FOR THEM HERE AND OTHERS TO. This regime has traumatised our people into servitude. We have become slaves to ZanuPF.

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    tonyme 6 years ago

    I see how the machinations have worked and why Amai Mujuru is being targeted at this point. Even Rugare Gumbo is beginning to sing the “Ditch Her” song. Politics is an amazing game. Please know there a two factions and not one as some writers seem to purpot.

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    Tinomunamataishe 6 years ago

    Its unfortunate but I think the war veterans lost all respect when they aligned themselves with a particular party. They should have remained apolitical with members free to join parties of their own choice. As it is now they are seen as an extension of Zanu PF whether they like it or not and in the event that Zanu PF loses power they should expect no further recognition.

    War veteran bodies in other countries have chosen to be neutral and therefore have remained relevant even when power has changed hands. I don’t think that will be the case in Zimbabwe where war veterans can now be best seen as Mugabe’s willing tool.

    In this case Mugabe can use them whenever he feels like taking advantage of their plight. He will use that plight to his advantage so that he remains in power in perpetuity.

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      Abbie 6 years ago

      Tinomunamataishe you are so right. It is unheard of for war vets to align themselves with a particular party. In actual fact, it doesn’t even make sense that they chose a man who had never touched a gun as their patron. He was busy acquiring degrees while they ducked bullets. How could he be expected to even understand what they went through? How was it possible that while such liberation war luminaries as Dumiso Dabengwa and Solomon Mujuru were still alive they chose Mugabe to be their patron?

      The answer lies in what Gange Mukange said – these are not genuine war vets. As regards Jabulani Sibanda, apart from the fact that he was just 8 years at independence, Dabengwa confirmed that he wasn’t one of his men. So, if all three men who have dominated this outfit, Hunzvi, Chinotimba and Sibanda are not genuine war vets, it goes to show that those they lead would never have put them in the forefront unless they are also impostors.