HARARE – War veterans are standing by their embattled leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, effectively setting themselves up on a warpath with the leadership of President Robert Mugabe’s warring post-congress Zanu PF.
Mutsvangwa — the chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), and a close ally of under-fire Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — was earlier this week booted out of Zanu PF’s Mashonaland West structures on charges of insulting the First Family.
The vote of no confidence against Mutsvangwa is not only threatening his Cabinet and party positions, but has also put his leadership of the Zanu PF-aligned ZNLWVA in jeopardy, as the factional and succession wars devouring the ruling party continue to escalate.
This is more so after the spokesperson of the ruling party, Simon Khaya Moyo, told the Daily News on Wednesday that Mutsvangwa’s banishment by Mashonaland West province was above board — which effectively means that he is now in the political wilderness.
But the veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, who are by and large said to be rooting for Mnangagwa in Zanu PF’s brutal succession dogfights, have now defiantly stuck their necks out in defence of Mutsvangwa.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, ZNLWVA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda said no-one outside the association’s membership could call for Mutsvangwa’s ouster.
“I am not sure if those who accuse him of whatever they are accusing him have the evidence against him. But from our perspective as war veterans, there is no one who is not one of us who can say Mutsvangwa has failed in his mandate and oust him,” Matemadanda said.
He claimed that war veterans across the country were “highly-incensed” by the reports that suggested that Mutsvangwa was under the cosh within the ruling party.
“Comrades want to know what is happening to our leader because they believe he is the most industrious chairperson ever to lead them, and the evidence is there.
“I have not been around myself and now I am getting onto the ground to gather the facts. We would also want the chairman to address us as soon as he is back, because he is currently out of the country,” Matemadanda added.
This stance could see the ZNLWVA leadership engaging in combat with Zanu PF bigwigs, after Mugabe recently rapped Mutsvangwa and other ex-combatants who he accused of behaving as if they had a monopoly over the liberation war.
Signalling that tempers could soon reach boiling point over the matter, Matemadanda urged his troops to “remain calm and patient and not allow ourselves to be pushed into doing the wrong thing”.
He also expressed concern at the fact that there were “elements” in the ruling party who were allegedly choosing to disregard Mugabe after he spoke strongly against resorting to vindictive ways of resolving conflicts in Zanu PF at the party’s recently-ended Victoria Falls conference.
“We are war veterans and not necessarily Zanu PF, and we get disturbed when after the president had seemingly managed to handle the issues that were considered hot at the conference, and it ended without incident with him calling for unity and discouraging unnecessary votes of no confidence in the party, we still have some elements defying him and suspending officials who are above their level,” he said.
Announcing Mutsvangwa’s sacking on Monday, Zanu PF deputy provincial chairperson for Mashonaland West, Keith Guzah, said the province had also recommended that the Norton legislator be recalled from Parliament, in addition to being expelled from the brawling ruling party.
Guzah took issue with Mutsvangwa’s alleged recent utterances to the media when he warned against comrades “confusing the institution of marriage and that of the State” — with his party foes later saying these words were the same “in meaning and import as the outrageous ‘bedroom coup’ remarks that got Jabulani Sibanda expelled from the party”.
To that extent, Guzah added, his executive had found Mutsvangwa “guilty of gross misconduct, disloyalty and treachery according to section 266(b) and 266(c) of the party’s constitution”.
This also came after Mugabe launched a scathing attack on boastful war veterans, a thinly-disguised assault that was said to be directed at Mutsvangwa, during his closing remarks at Zanu PF’s conference.
“Vamwe vanoti handibviswe. Unobviswa, teerera zvinotaurwa nevamwe (Some say they are untouchable and can’t be removed from their positions. They can be removed and should listen to what others say). This is a people’s party, it’s not your party.
“Zvekuti ini ndiri ngana ndakaenda kuhondo iwe hauna kuenda kuhondo, nonsense! (there are those that discriminate others based on war credentials. That is nonsense). We should not hear that at all from anyone,” Mugabe charged.
But Matemadanda said it was not certain that Mugabe’s tirade was directed at his boss.
“He (Mugabe) is our leader and has the right to correct things when he notices deviant behaviour amongst his children, but to say he was directing his attacks on so and so may not be true.
“The comments are subject to various interpretations because he did not mention anyone by name,” Matemadanda said.
In the meantime, analysts say with Mnangagwa struggling to live up to the popular caricature of his nickname, that of a ruthless crocodile, in Zanu PF’s seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars, his supporters are being pummelled left, right and centre by their marauding party foes.
Just like what happened a decade ago when many of his most ardent supporters were decimated after the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration, after being accused of plotting to oust Mugabe from power, analysts say history appears to be repeating itself with the VP’s close allies again being picked off one by one by their party enemies, like lambs to the slaughter.
Lacoste, as Mnangagwa is fondly referred to by his loyal followers, again stands accused in all this of doing little that is visible in the public domain to protect leading members of his support group who are on the receiving end of the savage and unrelenting factional mauling.
At the heart of the Midlands godfather’s political travails and those of his supporters, is his long-mooted aspiration to succeed Mugabe — an ambition that is rabidly opposed by the post-congress Zanu PF’s Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40), who claim that he is “patently unelectable”.
Party insiders have previously claimed in various interviews with the Daily News that the G40 faction — which allegedly includes Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — is trying to nudge First Lady Grace Mugabe to join the succession bun-fight.
Among the alleged allies of Mnangagwa who have recently come under severe pressure from inside Zanu PF are Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena, Water minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, former Manicaland women’s league chairperson Happiness Nyakuedzwa, and the power couple of Monica and Christopher Mutsvangwa.
Wadyajena stands accused of denigrating Grace while he was allegedly engaging in “political banter” with businessman and fellow Zanu PF official Jimayi Muduvuri during the ruling party’s just-ended annual conference.
Nyakuedzwa and another alleged VP close ally, former Mashonaland Central youth league chairperson Godfrey Tsenengamu, were recently suspended from the ruling party for five years on allegations of fanning factionalism.
Former Harare provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa, former Harare women’s league chairperson Ratidzo Mukarati and former Masvingo chairperson Paradzai Chakona — all perceived strong backers of Mnangagwa — have also suffered votes of no confidence that were upheld by the party.
Mutsvangwa’s wife, Monica — a deputy minister — was also recently booted out of the women’s league for defying the First Family, while Muchinguri-Kashiri came under severe shellacking in Manicaland and in a recent politburo meeting.
And there is no record in all these cases that Mnangagwa has done much to support or protect his allies, a failing that well-placed sources say the VP was guilty of in 2004/5 when his supporters who allegedly included Daniel Shumba, Mike Madiro, Josiah Hungwe and July Moyo were cast into the political wilderness for fighting for him. – Daily News