‘You can’t divorce the gun from politics’ | The Herald April 9, 2016
ON Thursday, liberation struggle veterans from across the country converged in Harare to parley with President Mugabe, who is also the patron of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, where they discussed various issues affecting the former fighters and traditional pillar in the revolutionary party, ZANU-PF. Our Political Editor, Tichaona Zindoga (TZ), caught up with war veterans spokesperson Cde Douglas Mahiya (DM) after the critical indaba to reflect on how the day panned out . . .
TZ: First of all you, have just had a meeting with your patron of the war veterans, President Mugabe. What is your reflection of the meeting that took place on Thursday?
DM: Next to everything that has happened we have covered all the politics that we had set for ourselves to discuss upon which were mainly the welfare issue, it had its own committee; the ideological committee, it was dealing with political ideology; the threats to the party was another thematic committee; and we also had the heritage thematic committee and the fourth one was the economic empowerment one.
We had people who presented papers on these thematic committees. In actual fact, it was a collective paper on that topic. Last night we had ourselves in groups of I think more than 600 to 800 people per group to discuss specific topics and resolve.
On welfare we resolved that issues pertaining to our health needed immediate attention because most of the war veterans are getting to those ages where they need more medication so we were requesting Government and appealing to Government to look at it more closely. And of late Government had actually stopped looking after us medically because of the unavailability of money.
So this is what we are appealing to Government. In actual fact, we proposed that we added to medical aid societies so that when I get sick I will not need to go to the nearest clinic to get a paper of approval and then go to receive the medical treatment because that is cumbersome. We also requested Government on the same issue of health to assist us to get treated outside the country where our local medical facilities are unable to address the ailment.
The other thematic committee which was ideological, we tried to remind the nation and the President that there are certain things that we needed revived in the party in order to ensure continuity of the same ideological understanding from the liberation war. Because those were tried and tested principles that rendered to Zimbabweans independence.
So they were effective, quite representing and more for now that we had got contribution from the masses, so it was quite conclusive. So that was about the ideology. There are also certain things today that we pointed out to the President, issues that we think are not going the same direction with the ideology that we thought was going to continue in this country.
Such as the question of how disciplinary issues should be taken in the party. The value of indiscipline I think like in any court cases, cases are tried by the judge, that he doesn’t give uniform sentences. So we were appealing to our party’s leadership that let there be such a difference and that expulsions are not the only answer in the party for people who might have erred or failed to comply with a certain political position or conclusion.
So we were actually trying to remind the party that it has got to be more lenient to its people than being extreme at times or mundane and inconsiderate of why this person may have done what he has done.
TZ: From your report and from what we heard from the thematic committees, many people are of the opinion that you are making a lot of demands and that you are a selfish lot. You mentioned that you requested that there be care outside the country for example, some people were not quite happy with that. Are war veterans now becoming a selfish lot?
DM: As long as we talk about selfishness and somebody is suggesting selfishness from people who have wounds from gunshots then the definition of the word is more suitable to people who think we are selfish. Because when any one person in our association or the war veterans fraternity who have got gunshot wounds was not shot when he was trying to run away from a robbing spree, he was actually either defending himself in battle or was simply attacked during the war in trying to liberate people.
And for such people to think then that it is not progressive, they are not being human because they expect me to have given up my life, now that I was shot and have got a gun wound, I must find money to treat myself and yet that person is enjoying their independence that was achieved out of those wounds.
I think people need to understand that we need this assistance, medical assistance because the wounds were made to liberate them.
TZ: Ideologically from the presentation and from your own submission of Thursday’s event, it would seem that there was a particular trend that you were going along a familiar and particular factional line to the extent that for example . . .
DM: Then it means people don’t understand the matrix of political development or expected political developments in an independent Zimbabwe. We did not get independence without knowledge of what we wanted in all issues of Government.
At the issue of Government was agreed upon as a matter of principle before independence. So for as long as somebody does not understand these principles he or she is bound to think in the way that your question suggests. But for somebody else who really knows it then he will be able to identify that war veterans are not aligned to any faction but that they are maintaining the principles of the revolution.
The principles of the revolution that they used to achieve the independence that we have today. So the question of factionalism by any definition we leave out the maintenance of war veterans to their revolutionary principles.
TZ: But then how would you explain that a certain faction has been more identifiable with a particular faction and that the presentations that you made were targeting the office of the political commissar in Zanu-PF which is something that has already been talked of and been associated with war veterans?
DM: Medical doctor lecturers are experts in their own area of medicine. The war veterans themselves are experts in their area of liberating people or the idea of delivering freedom at the doorstep of every Zimbabwean as we are witnessing.
So the use of the principles that achieved these things is the measuring stick that should be used by anybody who would want to put us into any faction. If there is a group that is against a group that does not know the principles of the revolution and then they are called a faction then we don’t understand why there could be a rightful group of people or a rightful general understanding that it got from war veterans as requiring an overhaul because it is not necessary as we speak.
Those are the principles that we used. So if there is any other group that does not comply with the principles of the revolution that we had it is up to appropriators of words to say that there factional or they are not factional.
But for as long as somebody else is against these gallant fighters of Zimbabwe and yet they sing the songs that were sung by these gallant fighters and they justify their being the correct candidates in Parliament and their constituencies in referring to the liberation struggle, then I think we are only talking about the legitimate political position in the maintenance of the revolutionary promises if they were before their existence.
So it is those people that should whip themselves into line with the revolutionary principles because the revolutionary principles are not personal issues, they are not personal principles, they are revolutionary principles which everyone has to abide by.
TZ: President Mugabe addressed you as war veterans after your presentations. What did you take home from President Mugabe’s address?
DM: Generally, we have a lot that we have taken, what we have taken home is that the President has actually spoken in words in his response to some of our proposals or presentations. But, overall, he said there is no reason why Government cannot comply with our requests. Literally it means all of our requests were accepted by the President and we are grateful for that.
TZ: But he also chided the lack of discipline that we have seen among the ranks of war veterans and reminded them of the revolutionary principles. How now do you take this?
DM: That is the nature of the army. Especially when you do not work in it or when war veterans are vilified as the war veterans fraternity of Zimbabwe and they are not well integrated into society. They don’t quite understand their role in the current political development, you are bound to have such things.
There is no way you can send your own son to a professional college and he becomes an engineer but after that he doesn’t practise. He will give you problems because he wants to practise. This is the case and in the process some things that can happen may be of that nature and it is the prerogative of the commander to point out those things. So that is natural.
TZ: I was going to ask, after all is said and done is this not a game of power between the commissar of yesteryear and the status quo today? One would feel that war veterans are bitter that they have been excluded somehow.
DM: It is true, exclusion is evident in that the commissar of the party does not embrace, receive the comrades with both hands. He is not keen to accommodate them. There seems to be no relationship or friendship and that is not healthy for the party.
Because the same party that gave birth to Zanla and Zipra should never be against its forces. If any leader of a revolution goes against his forces he will not achieve the ultimate goal of a revolution. So that is what we were talking about all along that we should try as much as possible to close ranks and be more inclusive in what we are doing and be considerate and at the end of the day we become a progressive revolutionary force together.
TZ: There comes not the dichotomy of politics and the gun. Do you not feel that probably your guns have not quite moved with the times to the present demands? Some people are accusing you of maybe being caught in a time warp.
DM: The question of the gun and politics has been understood quite satisfactorily by the thematic committee on ideology. That together there should be harmony between the two because the two cannot live together without the other. So living together as one component, the gun and the politics makes Zimbabwean politics more progressive than one without the other.
TZ: Let’s talk about unity among the war veterans. When this meeting was called or was proposed by President Mugabe, around that time and today are you better off as an outfit in terms of unity and taking from this indaba that you have had, are you a better organisation.
DM: We are much better for as long as we are under the leadership of a legitimate democratically elected leader of the war veterans. So the undemocratically elected leader then becomes irrelevant. So the moment you talk about irrelevance then we are talking about a misfit. And when we are talking about a misfit, we are talking about a retrogressive component of an organisation which is best when it is not there.
So organisationally if you look at the negative one that I have just given you, you will discover that there are so few to talk about. It is here where we also encourage the media not to pay attention to such a small group against a bigger group because it is simply promoting division amongst a vital group of their own country. It doesn’t pay dividends at all.
TZ: Lastly, where do we go from here? War veterans are heading home, what really are you taking home?
DM: We are taking home everything that we have presented to the thematic committee and has been accepted by His Excellency the President. This is what we are going to take home in anticipation of absence of the indaba as a talk show.
So in a few days we expect Government to expedite the implementation of the proposals. The war veterans association is also going to engage the relevant Government departments that the President has spoken about, the mining, the banks and the industry. We will also try to find out what could be left of indigenisation, in agriculture and land allocation as well.