HARARE – Disgruntled war veterans yesterday raised the stakes in Zanu PF’s boiling tribal, factional and succession wars after they derided the party camp opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe — saying it would fail dismally in its mission.
At the same time, the angry war veterans appeared to back down on their hardline stance against President Robert Mugabe, surprisingly saying he was still their patron despite their nasty fallout with him last year.
Speaking at a press conference in Harare yesterday, former Cabinet minister and chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) Christopher Mutsvangwa claimed that the Generation 40 (G40) faction had come up a cropper against Mnangagwa because “he is too big a fish” to be expelled from Zanu PF by them.
“They create their own stories and they peddle them as if it is fact. Look, we are being hawked to every political party and political leader. When we were expelled, me and my friends (other war vets) were said kuti tiri vanhu vaMnangagwa (that we were Mnangagwa’s allies).
“It’s a year since we were expelled and Mnangagwa is still in Zanu PF. They are failing to expel him the way they did to Teurai (Joice Mujuru) . . . his position is strong there. He is not a push over, we assume.
“The accusation by G40 was we were pushing for Mnangagwa to take over. We cannot look for another political home, our home is where we came from (Zanu PF) . . . but only if it changes and respects the will of the people.
“We are very happy with where we are because where we are that’s where people are,” the straight-talking Mutsvangwa said.
Mnangagwa has been under the cosh in Zanu PF ever since Mujuru was hounded out of the warring ruling party in December 2014, and has on many occasions appeared to be on his way out of the former liberation movement as the marauding G40 have pummelled him and his supporters mercilessly and unrelentingly from all angles.
At the same time, Mutsvangwa and the larger section of war veterans have been making loud calls for the VP to take over the reins immediately from Mugabe, at both party and government levels.
The former freedom fighters have also warned previously that blood could be shed in the country if the Midlands godfather does not succeed the nonagenarian.
Early this month, a former Cabinet minister and liberation struggle stalwart, Rugare Gumbo — who worked with both Mugabe and Mnangagwa for many decades, before and after Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 — told the Daily News’ sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday, that it would be foolish to assume that the nonagenarian had shut the door on his deputy succeeding him.
He also said it could not be ruled out that Mnangagwa himself was “playing a game of hide-and-seek” with Mugabe, adding that the two men had a strong bond and long-standing relationship which was “only fully understood by them”.
Gumbo — who was expelled from Zanu PF in 2014 with many other ruling party bigwigs on untested allegations of plotting to assassinate and topple the nonagenarian from power — said the two men were “sizing and testing each other up”.
“Mugabe has always been a slippery character because of all things he always wanted power the most. While many other liberation movements had a succession plan, Mugabe long decided against coming up with one.
“Still, I wouldn’t say Mnangagwa has been blocked out. However, what I know is that Mugabe and Mnangagwa vakateyanirana mariva (they have set traps for each other). They are playing each other and only time will tell who will win,” he said in the aftermath of Mugabe’s 93rd birthday interview with the ZBC in which he appeared to have ruled out chances of the VP succeeding him.
At yesterday’s media briefing, Mutsvangwa denied that war veterans were pushing for Mnangagwa to grab power, saying they were only airing their grievances because of the poverty stalking thousands of ex-combatants whom he said were living in squalor.
“We are opposed to their (G40) small mind. That is what we are fighting. Those who are saying we want power and we want to push for someone, those are lies.
“Most war veterans are very poor. We are the only victorious army who have remained poor for 30 years.
“We are realising as war veterans that with the way the economy is, there is nothing of a welfare nature which can be addressed separately from the general populace. We are all suffering.
“We know that (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa has no money. We are looking at deeper solutions. We realise that we are in a mess and so we need deeper solutions,” Mutsvangwa said.
The war veterans also appeared to offer an olive branch to Mugabe yesterday when they told the media that the nonagenarian remained their patron despite their decision at their meeting in Masvingo last year, where they scrapped his position from their amended constitution.
“The president is still the patron. Like I told you, we began to know who our enemy was. We have identified who our enemy is. So, we don’t waste our energy misdirecting our arrows and bullets in the wrong direction when the enemy (G40) is there.
“We felt that issue is not of major importance. We worked with him (Mugabe) for a long time. He is 93. We fought together, and he was in the war with us. We also freed him from jail, otherwise he would have died in prison. We fought for him,” Mutsvangwa said.
The ex-combatants’ 42-year relationship with Mugabe ended mid last year over their worsening plight and the country’s deepening political and economic rot.
Since that fallout, which hit media headlines after they released a damning communiqué in which they savaged the Zanu PF leader before serving him with divorce papers, the ex-combatants have not missed an opportunity to attack Mugabe.
Until that fallout, the fed-up ex-combatants had served as Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s main power base, waging particularly brutal campaigns against popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, especially in the bloody elections of 2000 and 2008.
But the nasty divorce had severe consequences for the leadership of the former freedom fighters as Mutsvangwa was fired from both the Cabinet and the ruling party, while many of their other leaders were banished from the imploding former liberation movement, in addition to being hauled before the courts.
In ending their relationship with Mugabe, war vets claimed that the nonagenarian’s continued stay in power was now a stumbling block to the country’s development, adding rather derisively that Zimbabwe’s long-ruling leader would be “a hard-sell” if he ever contemplated contesting next year’s presidential poll. – Daily News