DEFIANT war veterans yesterday drew their swords, challenging President Robert Mugabe ahead of their crunch meeting on Thursday, saying the veteran politician was misleading himself into believing Zanu PF was bigger than the former freedom fighters.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) acting spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya, said attempts by Mugabe, to cow them into submission by describing them as a Zanu PF affiliate with no power to influence how the party was run, are “misplaced and will not succeed”.
“We are not an affiliate of Zanu PF; we founded this party from the military wings of the two liberation movements — that’s Zipra and Zanla. For anyone to try and claim that we are an affiliate, is wrong,” he told NewsDay.
Mahiya said the former freedom fighters gave birth to Zanu PF and were the owners of the party, defying party leader, Mugabe, who described the war veterans as an associate organisation.
Mugabe on Saturday told Zanu PF supporters that he would use the Thursday indaba to remind the combative war veterans that they were just an affiliate of Zanu PF and could not dictate to him how to run party affairs.
“The party is the one that lays down systems and procedures. We might have associations as part of Zanu PF, but they are merely associations. You can have charitable associations, war veterans’ associations, whatever they do, they should come through the party organs,” the President, who is the patron of the ZNLWVA, said.
“There is no association with powers to dictate what the party has to do, so associations should come through party procedures.”
But, Mahiya, whose executive has vowed to confront Mugabe at the indaba and order him to stop the G40 faction, was unfazed by Mugabe’s rantings.
“We gave birth to Zanu PF, so we have every right to know and ask how it is being run. Yes, leaders today may try to whip us and stop us from asking critical questions about the party, but that will not solve anything,” he said.
“The people who were addressed by the President are supporters of the party, but we are the owners of Zanu PF. You can’t separate us from Zanu PF.
“For Zanu PF to be what it is today, it is because of us, so anyone reading a history book and interpreting it in a wrong way should come to the people who started Zanu PF and ask. No amount of intimidation will help solve the problems affecting the party.
“It is us who know what is causing these problems because we fought for this country, both physically and spiritually.”
Mahiya said as long as their concerns were not addressed, they will continue to be a thorn in Zanu PF’s side.
“So leaders may try to tell us this and that, but as long as we don’t solve the problems of the war veterans, we are not going anywhere,” he said.
“We may be silenced for a moment, but we will find a way to have our grievances sorted out by Zanu PF, a creature we created and nurtured.”
War veterans are demanding the disbandment of the G40 faction, strongly believed to be led by First Grace Mugabe and comprises of youthful Cabinet ministers and top Zanu PF officials, claiming the group was dividing Zanu PF and subtly plotting Mugabe’s downfall.
The G40 leaders on the other hand have accused war veterans of clandestinely campaigning for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe.
“People like [Zanu PF commissar, Saviour] Kasukuwere and the like never formed Zanu PF. They don’t know what it means to form a party, but we brought the party to the people so now we are just defending it,” an unfazed Mahiya said.
“We will not allow anybody to tell us how to relate to Zanu PF, especially those who read about it from textbooks.”
Mugabe has seemed to be siding with towards G40 in recent public statements, suggesting that war veterans, under the leadership of Christopher Mutsvangwa, were overstepping their mandate by trying to influence his succession.
Besides demanding an input into the party’s succession matrix, war veterans also want an improvement in their welfare and proper management of the economy.
“Let me tell you this, the country’s economy will not get better until war veterans’ demands are met. Let no one fool himself that whipping us into line is a solution, never,” Mahiya said.
Another war veteran, who declined to be named, claimed Mugabe was being misled by the G40 into believing that Mutsvangwa, who is currently on a three-year suspension from Zanu PF, was psyching them up to be defiant.
“Shenanigans by G40 to throw in Mutsvangwa‘s name, as if he is the main actor in organising the meeting, should not be tolerated,” the war veteran said.
“The meeting is a product of [Defence minister Sydney] Sekeramayi and [War Veterans minister] Tshinga Dube, who have worked hard to have issues affecting the war veterans for close to four decades addressed by their patron.”
Political analyst, Alexandra Rusero said Mugabe’s speech at the airport indicated that he no longer had respect for war veterans.
“He is not threatening them in any way, but just reminding them that the political dynamics in the country are no longer the same as they were in the early 2000s,” he opined.
“Mugabe is saying the power and influence of war veterans is no longer that visible, so they should know what they can and cannot do. He is also setting an agenda for them ahead of the meeting.
“Certain things that were supposed to be raised at the meeting will automatically fall by the way side.”
Academic, Ibbo Mandaza said war veterans’ influence had been diluted, as they were also now divided along Zanu PF factional lines.
“What is happening now is a culmination of events that started long back. The war veterans are no longer united and powerful as they used to be,” he said.
“So those who do not toe the line will definitely fall by the way side.”