FORMER Vice-President Joice Mujuru allegedly failed to protect women combatants abused by senior male officers during the war of liberation, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa has claimed.
Mutsvangwa reiterated to a local radio station in a live broadcast this week that Mujuru had also “bought the lie” that she single-handedly downed a Rhodesian army helicopter at the height of the bush war that brought majority rule 36 years ago.
“Those of us who had come from the university, we ended up in jail — myself, Zororo Duri (now late), John Mayowe (late) and Sobusa Gula-Ndebele — for resisting abuses on young girls. She (Mujuru) could have done more as a commander and I hold that against her,” Mutsvangwa said.
“She could have done more to stop the abuse of girls at Nyadzonia, but she did not.”
He claimed the likes of Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri went through hell.
“When women today say they are free, it is not a gift or charity from Zanu PF. They showed their valour, they earned it. I feel proud that someone who was in the field, like Vivian Mwashita, was declared a national hero. It will help change the narrative because some think women went to war as concubines. It’s nonsense,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Muchinguri was beaten every day at parade. We did not understand then as she was accused of being a spy, only to find out she was refusing abuses by senior commanders and we challenged that.”
He added: “The perception that has been created is that women were there to support men and most of those at the national shrine, not to say they did not deserve it, but there seemed to be a growing trend that only wives of revolutionaries would make their way there.”
But ZimPF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said it was a personal matter.
“As a party, we do not want to be dragged into a personal fight between Mujuru and Mutsvangwa, so we will not comment,” he said.
Mujuru’s personal assistant, Sylvester Nguni, would also not say much: “If the party spokesperson has said we will not comment, then that is what we say.”
Asked if he still stood by his claims that reports that Mujuru had downed a “chopper” during the war were lies, Mutsvangwa replied in the affirmative.
“I stand by that. She knows it, she never did that (downing the chopper). This is an effort to puff up her ego and she bought into the lie. She was my commander, the first trained woman commander.
“But as a comrade, she was as good a fighter as anyone. I have nothing against her record as a comrade. It is not so much against her, but if someone tries to make themselves a super hero and claim to have been better than those who died, we will not accept that. Respect your comrades; do not try to be anymore better than them,” Mutsvangwa added.
Legend has it that Mujuru, who now leads newly-formed opposition party ZimPF, took down a Rhodesian chopper during the war in a heroic feat that was initially incorporated into the country’s historical narrative.
But following the fall-out that led to Mujuru’s expulsion in the run-up to the Zanu PF congress in December 2014, Zanu PF apparatchiks, including Mutsvangwa, began to dismiss the assertion.
Mujuru, for her part, has told international media it was true that she brought down the enemy helicopter during the war, even going to the extent of describing the incident graphically.