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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