via War vet arrests: Angry leaders vow more invasions 22/05/2014 by Nkosana Dlamini NewZimbabwe
WAR veterans leaders have rubbished the surprise arrest and incarceration of 169 former fighters for invading vast tracts of private sugarcane plots in Chiredzi and Triangle last week.
Police for once took action and arrested the militant group in an unprecedented response to recurrent and often violent land invasions which began 2000 and have continued with tacit government approval.
Since then, Zimbabweans have never known of any arrests on war veterans, a militant section of President Robert Mugabe’s support base.
War veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda and self-styled commander of the land invasions Joseph Chinotimba, in separate phone interviews, both denied the forceful settlements on the plots were land invasions, preferring to call them demonstrations.
While Chinotimba talked himself hoarse about the perceived misdeed by police, Sibanda preferred to vent his frustrations on this reporter.
Sibanda took issue with the reporter’s choice of the phrase “alleged land invasions” in his question, saying he could only respond to a “properly” asked question.
It was not an invasion but a demonstration … Jabulani Sibanda
It was a demonstration
“So you are not asking the correct question. Don’t you know the difference between a demonstration and land invasion? So you will have to re-ask your question correctly next time,” Sibanda said before terminating the phone conversation.
But it was the outspoken Chinotimba who was evidently pained by the arrests, at one point threatening to rally more former fighters to invade the place.
“To me that is rubbish. I neither to comment or neither not comment (sic). But it (arrests) does not mean anything,” said the Buhera South MP in his now celebrated broken English.
Chinotimba said it was well within the war veterans’ rights to force themselves on the land in question.
“But at the end of the day, they were all removed from that land so the war veterans, whether they are arrested them, whether they are not arrested them, it (invasions) will continue (sic).”
He continued: “To me that is kabiyas, its rubbish. The war veterans should continue going there and we are going to call an emergency meeting in that place. They better arrest us all because that land belongs to the people; that land belongs to the war veterans, so that’s all.
“Those people who arrested them, they don’t know what they are doing. They were supposed to investigate the thing so why (sic) the war veterans are coming there rather than putting them in stocks.”
Chinotimba reiterated that the invaded property belonged to the war veterans and also gave his opinion on the current feud between government and Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims at Chingwizi holding camp.
“It’s like Chingwizi handitika? All the people who are there they (government) are saying they are going to allocating them another land (sic). They are supposed to go and allocating another land not to arrest them.
“They are not supposed to arrest people who are looking for land. They are demonstrating for them to be given another land. Not invading.”
Chinotimba distanced his Zanu PF party from the current u-turn on land invasions, preferring to heap blame for the arrests on Masvingo’s provincial governor whom he accuses of setting the police on the war veterans.
“Police were given an order by the governor, so l am talking to the governor; so there is no way the police can arrest a person without an informer,” he said.
Further probed on what he thought about Zanu PF’s current commitment towards the land reform, the fiery Chinotimba got more incensed.
“I am not talking about Zanu PF, where does Zanu PF come from, Heh? You are also a kabiyas journalist haikona. I am never talk about Zanu PF here. I am talk about the governor. He represents government not Zanu PF.
“The DA (District administrator) is a civil servant who represents the government. If you are asking me, are you asking Zanu PF? So why are transforming your message to Zanu PF? So don’t talk about Zanu PF and chii chii!
Since the first invasions of white owned land started after the rejection of the referendum February 2000, a militant section of the former fighters has been a larger than life group.
So influential have they been that, at some point, they arm-twisted a broke government to release Z$50,000 pay-outs as compensation for liberating the country.
Impact on investment
Commenting of the sudden arrest of the group, political analyst Charles Mangongera said the current government was keen on convincing the rich but sceptical West it had reformed.
“This government is desperate to engage with its former adversaries including the West and it has to be seen to be upholding the rule of law,” he said.
“This will only last as long as it helps their political agenda. But it’s not ingrained in their DNA to respect property rights.”