HARARE – In a calculated assault on restless war veterans aligned to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, ahead of the nonagenarian’s meeting with former freedom fighters in Harare on Thursday, President Robert Mugabe made it abundantly clear that he would not be dictated to by them.
Addressing Zanu PF supporters at the Harare International Airport yesterday on his return from Japan — via the now seemingly mandatory detour to Singapore — a pumped up Mugabe also made it clear that the once powerful Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) was subordinate to Zanu PF, and not the other way round as some former freedom fighters think.
“Hatitongwe neassociation … never ever. Hatife takabvuma izvozvo … tine gwara reparty … musangano ndiwo unotungamirira vose, maassociations ose, ndiwo unopa gwara kwatiri tose.
“Watsauka watsauka, warasika, wava chipfukuto gamatox … tinoda gwara, gwara nekuti tisina gwara hapana kwatinoenda tinorasika (We are not led by affiliate associations. We will never agree to that. We have party guidelines. The party leads all associations and provides guidelines to all of us. If you waver, you are now a weevil, gamatox),” Mugabe thundered.
Senior party officials present at the airport said the nonagenarian’s combative address not only set the tone for his eagerly-anticipated meeting with war veterans on Thursday, but was also a “calculated assault” on Team Lacoste (Mnangagwa faction) which was said to be going around boasting that it had now successfully cornered him and reined-in his influential wife Grace.
Zanu PF has for the past decade been ravaged by deadly and seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, with the party currently divided along two main factions — one loyal to Mnangagwa (Team Lacoste) and the other, known as the Generation 40 (G40) group, rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather.
War veterans, who for long were the pillars of the former liberation movement and a major unifying force in the party, have also now been sucked into the often mindless bloodletting.
This has seen the ZNLWVA effectively breaking up into a number of bitterly-opposed factions, with the main formation still led by former War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, who is seen as a key ally of Mnangagwa and who was summarily sacked from Cabinet by Mugabe last month.
The Mnangagwa-aligned ZNLWVA has been accused by its Zanu PF enemies of undermining Mugabe and Grace, and promoting factionalism — amid further untested claims that it is working to dislodge the increasingly frail nonagenarian from power, for the benefit of Mnangagwa.
The VP-aligned ZNLWVA leadership has also openly clashed with senior Zanu PF officials over the past few months, going on, recently, to pass votes of no confidence in bigwigs such as Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and Cabinet ministers that include Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo whom they accuse of being key G40 members. Mugabe’s forthcoming meeting with war veterans, scheduled for Thursday, came at the instigation of the Mnangagwa-aligned ZNLWVA, which is why many Zimbabweans will be watching with keen interest what happens at the get-together after the president’s shellacking of the group yesterday.
This follows the unprecedented move by riot police last month who mercilessly clamped down on the Mnangagwa-aligned war veterans — tear-gassing and water-spraying them before forcing them to disperse, after the group of former freedom fighters attempted to flex their muscles and congregate “unlawfully” in Harare.
The chaos, which the Daily News on Sunday and its sister paper, the Daily News, had accurately predicted for weeks, came as Zanu PF’s ugly internal ructions got dirtier, with the party faction linked to Mnangagwa increasingly mounting an open rebellion against Mugabe and Grace. So bold had some of the utterances and tactics employed by Team Lacoste become that there had been, for some time, real fear within Zanu PF that the ruling party’s escalating brawls could soon boil over into bloody conflict.
But the war veterans’ mission, including plans to march to Zanu PF’s national headquarters, fell apart after the authorities decided to deal with them firmly — a treatment that is usually reserved for opposition supporters and other critics of the government.
Police officers, who gave the fast-aging war veterans five minutes to abandon their march before action was taken against them, said their demo and meeting had not been sanctioned by authorities.
But the war veterans, clearly of the belief that force would not be used against them, said defiantly that they were “not going anywhere,” before breaking into song.
Soon after, all hell broke loose — and to the disappointment of some bystanders with a high affinity for real life drama, the veterans scampered for dear life with barely a whimper.
In his attack yesterday, Mugabe said all Zanu PF’s affiliate associations had to follow the party’s rules and procedures.
“Haungavi nhengo yemusangano usingateeri gwara remusangano. Kana uchienda nerweseri kuda kuputsa musangano. Kushora mazwi akashata atinotuka nawo, uchiri nhengo here? Uchine kodzero here?
“Saka hatizvide izvozvo … musangano ndiwo unotara gwara. Musangano ndiwo unoziva gwara (You cannot be a party member when you do not follow the party’s dictates. If you plot to destroy the party are you still a party member? Do you still have rights to the party? We do not want that … the party is the one that lays out procedures to be followed),” Mugabe said.
“Hapana association ine mvumo yekuti imire uko, yoti tinoda kuti party iite zvakati, hapana. Association inouya nemugwara reparty — kuhondo ikoko taiti politics leads the gun.
“Zanla, Zipra vanosungirwa kutevera gwara reparty — mauto ese, madetainees, marestrictees tese topinda muparty totevera gwara reparty. Vatapihwa ivavo kuti tivhotere senhengo dzeparamende tovavhotera. Ndomaitiro iwayo.
(No association has the power to stand aside and make demands from the party. All associations follow the party procedures — during the liberation war our principle was that politics leads the gun — Zanla, Zipra should follow party procedures… ex-combatants, ex-detainees and ex-restrictees must follow party procedures. We must vote for the selected parliamentary candidates, that is how we do things),” Mugabe added.