HARARE – In yet another unprecedented attack on President Robert Mugabe’s warring Zanu PF, disgruntled war veterans linked to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa say the former liberation movement has been an unmitigated disaster since it came to power in April 1980.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday — as Zimbabwe continues on its precipitous economic decline that is widely blamed on Mugabe and Zanu PF — the disaffected former freedom fighters, who have been pivotal in keeping the ruling party in power for the past 36 years, savaged its “wrong policies” and corrupt tendencies.
The spokesperson of the main faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Douglas Mahiya, also said bluntly that Mugabe and his party had “forgotten the egalitarian principles of the liberation struggle” — a situation he said portended doom for the country.
“The policies that have been pursued by the government since independence have never been for the people. They have never been for the workers, but for a few individuals who are corrupt and have led the country into the economic problems we are currently having.
“Successive ministers of Labour since 1980 have, for example, not made any efforts to put in place legislation that protects the worker. Yet this was something that we discussed while in Mozambique that we would value labour,” he said.
He added that war veterans were livid that the country’s wealth remained in the hands of a few, mostly those occupying senior positions in government, and a few others who were politically-connected.
Mahiya also asked that war veterans be given the mandate to investigate corrupt government and Zanu PF officials, “if we entertain any hopes of reviving the economy”.
“Why don’t they allow war veterans to go deep and tackle the issue of corruption? We have that capacity and we know who the corrupt are both in Zanu PF and government.
“We advocate for a situation where the money being paid to executives in government as well as the private sector is reduced by 50 percent. We had hoped that policies that would have seen workers buy shares in companies would be put in place, but that has not been the case as we now have corrupt leaders who believe that money belongs to them and industry, and not workers.
“What we have seen is an obscene accumulation of wealth by a few, who are building mansions and one wonders what work they did to afford that,” he said.
The tough-talking ex-combatant also admitted that Zimbabweans were angry with their ever-deteriorating circumstances, to the extent that they were now boycotting government programmes — as seen when Mnangagwa addressed a virtually empty Rufaro Stadium last Monday during the government-organised Workers’ Day commemorations.
“In the absence of correct policies, people tend to shun these events. They need not be bussed to attend such events when all is well.
“They should just feel obliged to follow their leaders but we know that the Zanu PF commissariat department always busses people to hoodwink the president into thinking that all is well and that people are happy when it is clear that they are not,” Mahiya said.
This is not the first time that war veterans have openly savaged Mugabe and Zanu PF. In another unprecedented move that shook the ruling party down to its core three weeks ago, other disgruntled former liberation fighters said they had had enough of the increasingly frail nonagenarian, adding that it was time he left office.
The ex-combatants — many of whom are signatories to the famous 1976 Mgagao declaration that catapulted Mugabe to the helm of Zanu — also said they were withdrawing their support both to that epoch-making document, as well as to Mugabe.
Liberation struggle stalwart, Bernard Manyadza, whose war-time nom de guerre was Parker Chipoyera and who was the head of instructors at the famous Mgagao Camp, said war veterans — the majority of whom are wallowing in abject poverty — had had enough of Mugabe’s “misrule”.
In addition to vowing to do everything in their power to make Mugabe leave office, the disgruntled war vets also ominously threw their weight behind former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who is now leader of a new political outfit, Zimbabwe People First (ZPF).
“At this juncture, it is particularly important for the people of Zimbabwe to know how (Robert) Mugabe first attained the reins of power as president of Zanu.
“It is us the war veterans who put Mugabe into power. In 1976, officers at Mgagao Training Camp in Tanzania, after consulting with others in Zambia and Mozambique, wrote a document denouncing the then president (of the party) Ndabaningi Sithole.
“The document, known as the Mgagao document, accused Sithole of abandoning the struggle to pursue his personal issues.
“After considering many factors, the war veterans agreed to endorse . . . Mugabe to succeed Sithole. In light of this, it is abundantly clear that Mugabe was not elected, but selected to lead Zimbabwe’s armed struggle,” Manyadza said.
“We, the war veterans who agreed to the authorship of the Mgagao document and appended our signatures to it, now withdraw the mandate we gave to (Robert) Mugabe to be leader,” he added.
Manyadza said “real war veterans” remained marginalised while “opportunists” who currently occupied senior positions in government were “cowards” during the war of liberation.
Describing Mugabe’s recent meeting in Harare with a faction of war veterans as a non-event, Manyadza — who was flanked by other “real” ex-combatants — said the get-together had been “a missed opportunity” to put the 92-year-old leader under pressure.
“The illegitimate attendees are Zanu PF sycophants and bootlickers who can best be described as charlatans and opportunists.
“It was clear to everyone that most attendees were past the age of liberation fighters, but some old villagers who were paid to attend and ululate and sing praises to Mugabe,” he thundered.
He also said that it was unfortunate that everyone who had challenged Mugabe within Zanu PF thus far had been purged from the former liberation movement.
“Comrades, even our service chiefs who have demonstrated absolute loyalty to the nation and their commander-in-chief have had their loyalty and allegiance questioned, firstly by the First Lady (Grace Mugabe), and later by their commander-in-chief. This has set a very bad precedence.
“Again comrades, the manner in which . . . Mujuru was removed from holding government and party positions at the instigation of Mugabe’s wife who had no political position at the time cannot be accepted or tolerated.
“Mugabe as the sole centre of power unilaterally makes ruinous decisions that have sadly brought life in the once-prosperous nation to a standstill,” Manyadza added.
While the country’s opposition has routinely called for Mugabe to either resign or retire, there are now also growing calls for him to step down from within Zanu PF ranks and the war veterans corps.
Only last month as well, respected ruling party elder Cephas Msipa said keeping Mugabe in power was tantamount to “punishing” the increasingly frail nonagenarian, further urging the long-ruling leader to retire immediately.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily News, he said Mugabe’s 56 years in politics were long enough for a “normal human being to hang the boots”.