AXED war veterans leader, Jabulani Sibanda, has denied suggestions that he is on a charm offensive to court former war veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa to join the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), launched this month.Mutsvangwa was recently relieved of his ministerial duties by President Robert Mugabe. Earlier, he had been suspended from the ruling ZANU-PF party for three years for undermining the First Family, although he retained his leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).
Following their joint address to war veterans in Bulawayo recently, there has been speculation that Sibanda was trying to win over Mutsvangwa to join ZPF, led by former vice president Joice Mujuru.Sibanda was axed from ZANU-PF in December 2014 and is a ZPF member.
Ironically, he was expelled from ZNLWVA at Mutsvangwa’s behest. Mutsvangwa has now also found himself guilty of undermining the authority of President Mugabe and insulting the First Family, the same reasons that led to the expulsion of Sibanda from ZNLWVA and ZANU-PF.
The similarity in their circumstances has led many to speculate that Sibanda and Mutsvangwa have finally struck a chord, and might soon join forces in campaigning for ZPF. Sibanda has, however, dismissed the claims.
“I did not have a meeting with Mutsvangwa on any issues. Do you know what it means to meet with someone? I only saw him at the war veterans meeting,” Sibanda said.ZNLWVA is still smarting from the disruption of their meeting by police last month.
Police used teargas and water cannons against the former liberation war fighters for holding an unsanctioned meeting in Harare.The war veterans were agitating for a meeting with their patron, President Mugabe, to whom they wanted to raise their grievances.
Vivid Gwede, a political commentator, this week said ZANU-PF was most likely unsettled over the new found camaraderie between Sibanda and Mutsvangwa.He said although Mutsvangwa had once attacked Mujuru, those were now most likely to be bygones as ZPF moved to get the former war veterans minister on their side.
“The active courtship targeting war veterans like Mutsvangwa by ZPF will most likely draw Mutsvangwa to the new party or to co-operate with it at the least. So the defection does not only depend on Mutsvangwa, who might feel uneasy that he was instrumental in abusing Mujuru, but it now also seems realistic given the active drive by ZPF to gather all the jettisoned colleagues under one political roof,” said Gwede.
ZANU-PF has been downplaying the war veterans’ Bulawayo meeting addressed by Sibanda and Mutsvangwa.ZANU-PF’s Bulawayo provincial secretary for administration, Nacisio Makhulumo, said the party remained suspicious of the inclusion of Sibanda in a programme that he had nothing to do with.
“ZPF should find their own people. If they are coming into our own territory, we will deal with them. We will also deal with all those people that double dip, masquerading as ZANU-PF members by day and are ZPF members by night,” Makhulimo said.
Meanwhile, controversial former ZANU-PF Mashonaland West chairman, Temba Mliswa, has urged war veterans to sever ties with ZANU-PF and revert to safeguarding the values of the liberation struggle independent of influence from any political party.
The outspoken former Hurungwe West legislator said the only way the ex-combatants could secure public sympathy and preserve their liberation war legacy was to protect the values of the struggle, not the interests of the ruling party.
His call comes at a time when the war veterans in ZANU-PF are heavily divided along factional lines.Mliswa said the main reason the war veterans went to the struggle was to fight against the oppression they had faced at the hands of the Ian Smith regime, as well as for democracy and respect for human rights.
“ZANU-PF does not campaign, but it’s the war veterans that campaign for it. War veterans control the masses and tell them what to do especially during the struggle. So whether we like it or not they are inseparable with ZANU-PF. However, they should not allow themselves to be abused like what has been happening,” he said.
“This relationship between ZANU-PF and the war veterans must benefit everyone, especially from an economic point of view, which has not been the situation…There is an imbalance in terms of their wealth and those in power have enjoyed and still want to enjoy at the expense of their fellow comrades. They should get together and say this is not what we fought for.”
Mliswa said the abuse of war veterans could have been avoided had they acted independent from ZANU-PF in protecting the values of the struggle adding that a quarter of government positions should have been apportioned to the former liberation war fighters.