TOP officials in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) have scoffed at government threats to silence and stop them from demanding President Robert Mugabe to step down, saying no amount of intimidation would cow them into submission.
War veterans sing revolutionary songs during their meeting in Harare last Thursday
War veterans’ leaders who declined to be named told NewsDay yesterday that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere had no locus standi to dictate what they should or should not say as their “welfare as stockholders of the ruling party was at stake”.
Mnangagwa, who all along was the war veterans’ Trojan Horse for the 2018 polls, yesterday said it was “highly irresponsible and disloyal” for the former fighters to challenge Mugabe to step down.
Kasukuwere weighed in saying: “That is unacceptable and we will have to flush out these elements. We will not allow this kind of indiscipline to take root in the party. We must allow the President to do his work. He was voted for to run the country and genuine war veterans know that.”
Secretary for War Veterans Walter Asher Tapfumaneyi also threatened to institute a witch-hunt to sniff out the brains behind the former freedom fighters’ damning Thursday communiqué which described Mugabe as a “dictator”.
The latest verbal showdown followed a ZNLWVA meeting held in Harare on Thursday where the ex-fighters denounced Mugabe for failing to address their welfare issues, failing economy, corruption and widespread poverty. The veterans of the country’s 1970s liberation war declared they would not campaign for Mugabe in the 2018 presidential race.
“It’s clear there are people who want to silence us from discussing about our welfare and relationship to the party (Zanu PF),” a senior ZNLWVA executive said. “On Thursday, we had gathered to talk about our welfare and the comrades raised a lot of issues such as neglect by the party and government. Those are genuine issues that have not been responded to and it’s sad that we are being attacked by people who don’t want us to speak openly.”
The official added: “We have been silent for a long time and yet we are denied opportunities in our own country that we liberated. We cannot listen to a person like Kasukuwere who doesn’t know poverty at all. We speak on behalf of masses and again it’s sad that the majority of us cannot afford a proper meal because of poverty.”
The war veterans, after their Thursday meeting, released a strongly-worded communiqué where they described Mugabe as a sly character and dictator responsible for the current wave of corruption and economic meltdown, among a litany of other misdemeanours. They also accused Mugabe, who is their patron, of backing a Zanu PF G40 faction fronted by his wife First Lady Grace. The call for Mugabe to step down has rattled Zanu PF with reports that State security machinery has already been dispatched to clamp down on war veterans suspected of producing the damning communiqué, but the latter has scoffed at the threats.
“We cannot be identified as aliens in Zanu PF or to be told that we are useless, no that will not happen. Of course, they might choose to silence us through arrests or death but it’s only the flesh that will die. Our children will continue speaking and our issues will not go just like that,” the official said.
Already, Zanu PF youths in Chiredzi have threatened to unleash violence on war veterans’ national political commissar, Francis Nhando and repossess his sugarcane plot in the Lowveld, describing him as a “dissident”.
Addressing a Zanu PF meeting in Triangle on Saturday, provincial youth chair, Nobert Ndaarombe declared a bare-knuckle fight with war veterans pushing for Mugabe’s ouster.
“We will not fold our hands and keep quiet if you insult the President. You have crossed the red line. It is now a bare knuckle fight. We will not back down,” he said.
Another youth leader identified as Lloyd Simango, said: “Everyone who goes against the President, we immediately, repossess what he has gained because of Zanu PF. Tomorrow we are going to invade his (Nhando’s) farm.”
Masvingo provincial chairperson Amasa Nenjana threatened unspecified disciplinary action against “errant war veterans”.
“It is not easy to fight Mugabe. They will all be quiet together with (war veterans chairman Christopher) Mutsvangwa, (secretary-general Victor) Matemadanda and others,” Nenjana said.
Provincial political commissar, Jeppy Jaboon incited youths to “deal with Nhando”, saying “as Masvingo, we no longer want to see him in the province”.
Mutsvangwa has already lost his Cabinet, Zanu PF and parliamentary posts over his alleged defiance, but war veterans have vowed to retain him as their leader. The latest purge on war veterans came as former Vice-President Joice Mujuru on Saturday threw her weight behind them and urged the ex-fighters to join forces in the campaign to dislodge Mugabe.