VETERANS of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle snubbed President Robert Mugabe by staying away from a “solidarity gathering” meant to shore up the Zanu PF leader’s rapidly waning support.
Source: War vets snub Mugabe – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 29, 2016
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe’s love-hate relationship with the former freedom fighters all but came to an inglorious end on Wednesday after only a handful of war veterans heeded the call from splinter group leader and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene to gather in Harare.
“This is a G40 meeting, a splinter group gathering that has nothing to do with war veterans. Mugabe is not the leader of war veterans and does not have the mandate to speak for us.
“If Mugabe wants respect from us, he must repent from his ways. If Mugabe wants to retain the respect of Zimbabweans, it is better to resign and allow someone to take over. Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa remains our leader and if he had done anything wrong, Mugabe was supposed to approach the war veterans in a professional manner. We would have dealt with our chairman,” said one former freedom fighters, who identified himself by his war name Tambaoga. Tambaoga, along with some of his comrades, did not attend, but watched proceedings from a distance.
The ZNLWVA last week issued a stinging communiqué demanding that Mugabe, who has been in power since independence, steps down. The war veterans also announced they would withdraw their support for the Zanu PF leader ahead of elections expected in 2018.
Mugabe was left reeling by the unprecedented rejection and the solidarity gathering showed that the red line had been crossed.
When the roll call was done, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and North as well as Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Midlands province had no representatives, leaving master of ceremonies George Mlala with egg in the face. Those that claimed to be representing particular provinces like Mashonaland West seemed drunk or disoriented
“Comrades, please come, where are the representatives? We do not want to embarrass each other,” Mlala said desperately.
While the event was billed as a meeting between Mugabe and war veterans, the crowd was dominated by youths and members of the apostolic sect while the splinter war veterans group acting chairperson Chimene admitted she could have been high on drugs.
“They say I smoke marijuana, but I do not. Even if I do, I am okay with it if it makes me perform,” Chimene told a bemused Mugabe.
Another former fighter gushed: “Mugabe knows what needs to be done. It’s either he agrees to the formation of a revolutionary council to govern the country for now or he steps aside. Mugabe is like a fish and we are the water. He will not survive without us,” he said.
Mugabe at last gathered the strength to scoff at the communiqué.
“The party cannot be undone by a piece of paper that can be taken away by the wind. It has roots,” Mugabe told cheering supporters suddenly alert to proceedings.
Mugabe has declared that war veterans are not entitled to discuss the emotive succession issue, but other former freedom fighters have argued otherwise.
“The Organisation of African Unity during the war helped with the formation of the Patriotic Front (PF) and when Mugabe came he was appointed a co-leader and not founder. The PF was formed with Herbert Chitepo (late Zanu chairman) as leader and if Mugabe does not want us to talk about succession or his party, he must drop our name (PF).
“That part of the name belongs to Zanla and Zipra. Mugabe has no rights to that. Mugabe cannot have his cake and it.
He cannot claim that war veterans cannot have a say on the leadership of the party but still wants to keep our name,” another former fighter interviewed by NewsDay Weekender said.
Another called on Mugabe to “tell his wife to shut up. She knows nothing about the war and also his politburo members, especially those that did not take part in the war”.