President Robert Mugabe yesterday apologised to war veterans who were harassed and teargassed by the police on Thursday in Harare, but said their chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa was to blame for organising a meeting without seeking clearance from the authorities
The President said he was not aware of the meeting and other ministers in the security sector — Ministers Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence), Kembo Mohadi (Security) and Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs) — were also not briefed about the war veterans’ meeting.
He said Mutsvangwa should answer on whatever happened during the skirmishes between the police and the war veterans. Mugabe said Mutsvangwa deserved the heavy-handedness from the police, but sympathised with innocent war veterans who were called to Harare under the pretext that they were going to be addressed by him in his capacity as patron.
He said Mutsvangwa acted in an irresponsible manner and as a Cabinet Minister, he knew proper channels if there were any grievances that needed to be addressed. “We take exception to that,” said President Mugabe.
“He has acted in a manner we describe as irresponsible, completely irresponsible and in a manner which brings the name of the party and that of Government (into disrepute) — it brings it, you see down in disgrace, in a manner in which it is now blemished, criticised.
“The people are beginning to wonder whether, in fact, we are governing properly or in accordance with the rules. People were naturally hurt or at least they had this water from the cannons down their bodies, later on the teargas in their eyes.
“We regret, but the man to blame is their chairman and their Minister (Mutsvangwa) and of course he has to answer as Minister why he has done it without authority.
“Ministers have, as you know, their role in governing rules. They take oaths, here again, we swear them in that they shall be disciplined, they shall be loyal, they shall hold secrets and not to reveal to anyone what happens in the Cabinet – performance of the rest of us.
“But when there is activity, clandestine or surreptitiously way of doing things, one wonders whether Minister Mutsvangwa is one and all with the rest of us. He may have grievances which are personal to himself but those have nothing to do with Government.
“But in so far as the rights, conditions, and interests of the war veterans, we are interested in them. We are war veterans ourselves. These two gentlemen you have here (Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko) have been gunholders.
“You can call them vana bhombadhiya (bombardiers). And you find this situation even in the police force. We have people who have been outside fighting who are war veterans, the army, the intelligence, the security, department, in the civil service. We find them also now in their homes retired, some are farmers, in industries, some are intellectuals, universities.
“We have tried our best along the way. However, the matter is about the meeting of yesterday. And let Mutsvangwa not blame the police, law and order officers, for what they did. He deserved that treatment. But the rest of the people he had invited did not deserve it, but he himself deserved it.”
Mugabe said the meeting was not sanctioned, let alone him being briefed about it in his capacity as the patron of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).
He said the invitation of war veterans to Harare was an abuse of office by Mutsvangwa both in his capacity as chairman of the ZNLWVA and Cabinet minister. “I am the patron of the war veterans, I wasn’t informed about it,” said President Mugabe.
“Later on, even getting to know what the subject was and Mutsvangwa we have appointed him as Minister of War Veterans. The first ever person to occupy such a position when we created it for the first time in Cabinet.
“I don’t know in which capacity he invited the war veterans. It does not matter in which capacity, even if he invited them as chairperson of war veterans, he was still Minister, their Minister, and if the intention was to be a demonstration, demonstrating against what? A government of which he is a Minister?
“If it was to express grievances, what grievances? He has the channel now in Cabinet as minister to inform us about the situation of war veterans, channel their grievances to us through his ministry and suggest to us what measures we can take to alleviate their conditions.
“But for him to have called a meeting about which we knew nothing, in circumstances in which he had not clearly sought permission from the authorities in violation therefore of the law. He being a Minister, he cannot at the end of it all, after the law and order officers have taken action against the meeting and the war veterans, complain that he was ill-treated or that they were ill-treated.
“He must bear the responsibility to have invited the war veterans in the name of the President – telling them that the President would want to address them when, in fact, the President didn’t know about that, his invitation of them, is to abuse his authority as Minister in the gravest way possible.”
President Mugabe said the country valued the contribution of the war veterans and as such they would always be respected. He said the freedom fighters had came a long way and they should bear in mind that the country still has a long journey ahead.
President Mugabe called on the war veterans to remain disciplined and loyal as the leadership continued to explore ways of improving their welfare.
“Mawar veterans batanai. Zvichemo zvenyu tinazvo,” President Mugabe said. “Tine ministry yenyu – inoramba iripo ministry iyoyo asi hatidi nyonga-nyonga pakati penyu. Gwara, gwara remusangano. Gwara, gwara rerukudzo. Gwara rekubatana rirambe riri gwara redu. Kwatakabva kure toyeuka izvozvo. Kwatiri kuendawo kure zvekare toyeuka izvozvo, zvekare. Isu vatungamiri tinoramba tichiedza kuti mubatane.”
The President Mugabe also took a swipe at some youths in Zanu-PF who were disrespecting their elders. This was in apparent reference to the Zanu-PF youth league deputy secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga who on Wednesday disparaged war veterans and threatened to declare war on them.
“Hapana muno muZimbabwe watingati uyu ndiye anosungirwa kufa, hapana, uyu muvengi,” said President Mugabe
“Angave muroyi, angave tisingabatane muurongwa hweparty yedu asi kana totarisa panyaya yeupenyu tinofanira kumuponesa ave nekudya. Tinosungirwa zvekare kuti vana vakewo vave sevana vevamwe vese vanoyamurika nefundo.
“Ndihwo hwunhu hwatinoda ihwohwo. Izvi zvamave kuita vadiki vedu siyanai nembanje dzenyu. Zvokutuka vakuru nemazwi akadzama hatizvide. Zvikandei pasi, zvikandei pasi, zvikandei pasi. Ndatenda.