WAR veterans yesterday brought President Robert Mugabe down to earth, reminding him that they were not a mere affiliate, but the foundation upon which Zanu PF was built 53 years ago.
With the governing party almost at breaking point due to bitter factional fights over succession, Mugabe came face-to-face with angry war veterans who described themselves as “the solution to Zanu PF’s problems”.
Two factions are locked in an internal fight for control — one reportedly controlled by First Lady Grace Mugabe, known as Generation 40 (G40), and another allegedly sympathetic to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which calls itself Team Lacoste.
Amid reports the ex-fighters were aligned to Mnangagwa’s faction, the group seemed to throw brickbats at Grace and her faction, which allegedly includes Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, party national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and secretary for technology Jonathan Moyo.
Kasukuwere, although not mentioned by name, seemed to have been the subject of the vicious attack.
“There is a difference between stakeholders and stockholders. War veterans are stockholders who must sustain the party. Stakeholders can jump ship, but as stockholders we have nowhere else to go. This is our home,” the war veterans told a bemused Mugabe, who recently told them they had little influence in the affairs of Zanu PF because they were a mere affiliate body.
“The commissariat department instead of maintaining and building structures, is busy expelling and suspending members. Its biggest function is mass mobilisation and education and not expulsions.
Internal democracy, the party constitution and ideology are in danger. We should adhere to the constitution of the party and stop firing people with no right to be heard or appeal,” charged former Zanu PF commissariat director Munyaradzi Machacha.
Mugabe’s meeting with the former freedom fighters came after months of an acrimonious relationship marked by counter accusations.
Things came to a head in February when their meeting was violently stopped by police with the ex-fighters forced to scurry for cover after the gathering was said to be illegal.
Yesterday, the war veterans kept referring Mugabe to the ruling party’s constitution and reminded him that the former freedom fighters were the bedrock of Zanu PF.
“When the party is under threat, as war veterans, we have the mandate to save it and return it onto its rails when it deviates. The enemy has tried opposition parties and non-governmental organisations, but has failed. The machinations of the enemy have not ended. Instead, the party has been infiltrated with a view to destroying it from within,” Machacha said.
While the likes of Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and his War Veterans counterpart Tshinga Dube initially chanted slogans extolling Grace’s virtues, they were immediately reminded: “Slogans and songs should be in support of the party and its structures and only the President. We cannot have slogans that praise any other person except the President. Our recommendation is that all new slogans and songs should be approved by the central committee as was the norm before.”
Machacha, who presented a thematic report on ideology, added: “The unnecessary uttering of divisive and unfounded statements, even singing divisive and tribalistic songs, serves to divide the party and population along tribal lines.”
The war veterans told Mugabe some people linked to former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) were at the forefront of expelling “genuine revolutionaries”.
“It is very conspicuous that in so doing, these people are strengthening People First and leaving Zanu PF bereft with a small number of money-loving non-ideological people. The intention, therefore, is to weaken Zanu PF”.
The war veterans told Mugabe his party was bedevilled by “confusion with leaders losing direction and out of touch with the party’s founding ideologies”, which they recommended should be revisited.
“The party has been turned into an organisation of expulsions and suspensions. Factionalism has destroyed loyalty and patriotism in the country. Our leaders are now involved in factionalism and there is a real danger that the party could split into different groups,” another thematic committee presenter said.
Mugabe smiled perplexedly and fidgeted as speaker after speaker poked holes into Zanu PF in probably one of the most no-holds-barred discussions under his leadership.
The veteran leader, however, skirted most issues raised by the war veterans, including complaints over broken promises, a leadership that has lost its way under his watch and a party on the verge of disintegration.
“You have my promise. We have listened to what you have said and will try our best to make you a little happier than you are now. I will say this even when I resign or go and this will be part of what I say you (war veterans) must do when I am gone,” Mugabe said.
G40 was once again in the firing line as the party’s national disciplinary committee (NDC), currently chaired by Mphoko, came under vicious attack.
“The NDC has arrogated to itself the position of police, judge, jury and executioner with some of its members presiding over matters they have vested interests in. We demand that they recuse themselves from such issues and the central committee must take its rightful place in the party as the final arbiter of all disciplinary cases,” the former fighters said.
The war veterans demanded the party commissariat department should be reserved for the ex-fighters, while security chiefs should sit both in the central committee and the politburo. They added that they felt shortchanged by Kasukuwere, a non-war veteran whom they accused of being preoccupied with suspending and expelling members instead of mobilising support.
The ex-fighters cited the late General Solomon Mujuru and his Airforce counterpart Josiah Tungamirai as precursors who sat in both the central committee and politburo.
They told Mugabe point-blank Kasukuwere should be replaced by a representative of the securocrats.
Former party national commissars include axed minister Webster Shamu, the late Moven Mahachi, Elliot Manyika and Border Gezi, among others, with all of them having a liberation war history.
Since 2014, Zanu PF has expelled and suspended over 200 top leaders, including Mujuru, on a litany of charges including outright treason, but none has been charged thus far.
The liberation war fighters demanded that Zanu PF should urgently establish the Chitepo Ideological College (named after the assassinated Zanu chairman, Herbert Chitepo) for political re-orientation targeting all structures, including members of the politburo.