Defence forces commander, Constantine Chiwenga, has poured scorn on claims by the new opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) that President Robert Mugabe was not a genuine war veteran because he lacked a nom de guerre or war name.
Commenting through her spokesperson Gift Nyandoro recently, Joice Mujuru, the ZimPF leader recently said Mugabe was a fake war veteran because he did not even have a guerilla name.
This was repeated by Margaret Dongo, a war veteran and interim head of the ZimPF women’s wing.
But Chiwenga, in an interview with the State media before Heroes Day celebrations slightly more than a week ago, said those insisting that all war veterans must have held guerilla names lacked an understanding of the liberation struggle.
“So all those who talk about noms de guerre have no idea of how a guerrilla war is waged. They have no idea on how an armed struggle is waged,” said Chiwenga, an ex-combatant too.
He said there was no need for top leaders in the armed struggled against colonial rule to have war names.
The top leaders were elected by the people to lead the struggle and they made a supreme sacrifice to go out there to lead the combatants. There was no need for them to change their names because they were already known,” he said.
Besides Mugabe, other war leaders like Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda and Josiah Tongogara did not hide their real names.
“Why fighters had to be given noms de guerre or to change their names was for two specific reasons: for the individual’s personal protection and for the protection of their families,” said Chiwenga.
He added that noms de guerre were useful to ensure that combatants who were killed were not tracked back to their original homes where the Rhodesian government might parade them and scare people.
Of late, many of Mugabe’s erstwhile allies have turned against him, among them war veterans who he used as foot soldiers in his election campaigns.
The president is increasingly getting isolated from those that participated in the war that brought independence in 1980.
He has expelled from the ruling Zanu PF Mujuru, his former deputy and ex-combatant, together with many other notable veterans like Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa, while others such as Dumiso Dabengwa left out of frustration over Mugabe’s continued hold on power.