OPPOSITION Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader Joice Mujuru was the star attraction at Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya’s bail hearing in Harare yesterday.
Mahiya was arrested last week on charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe following the release of a stinging communiqué by former freedom fighters two weeks ago that urged the Zanu PF leader to step down.
Mujuru, ZNLWVA chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa, secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, former Cabinet minister Fay Chung, and MDC-T top officials Nelson Chamisa, Douglas Mwonzora and Job Sikhala were among hundreds of people who thronged the Harare Magistrates’ Court in solidarity with Mahiya.
Also present were Youth Advocacy for Reform and Democracy leader Temba Mliswa and Acie Lumumba, president of the newly-formed Viva Zimbabwe.
But it was Mujuru’s presence that nearly brought proceedings to a standstill, with the crowd, particularly the war veterans, stampeding to catch a glimpse of Mugabe’s former deputy, now an opposition leader.
Mujuru was part of the crowd that watched “a spirit medium” invoking the spirit of long-departed heroes such as Herbert Chitepo, Mbuya Nehanda and Josiah Tongogara for protection against “a repressive Mugabe regime”.
“They have rebelled against the revolution,” the woman, who appeared to be in a trance, said.
Mujuru later addressed journalists outside the courtroom, saying: “It is just unfair. Zimbabweans are trying to show us, as leaders, that things are not good. I urge dialogue among citizens than the use of force.”
Matemadanda was promptly arrested, as he emerged from the courtroom, as the State continued its clampdown and witch-hunt for authors of the damning communiqué, which has reportedly rattled Mugabe. He is likely to face similar charges as those levelled against Mahiya, who yesterday was granted $300 bail after languishing in remand prison since last Wednesday.
Mutsvangwa said the arrests were an act of intimidation, which even former colonial leader Ian Smith would not do.
“These are the finest and most heroic fighters Africa ever produced, who are now being persecuted by war deserters and cowards four decades down the line,” he said. “It is very sad that these people take it upon themselves to abuse the most powerful office in the land. A whole rally of pseudo-war veterans is addressed and then the courts grant a $300 bail. You can see a juxtaposition: the overreacting and a proper legal system in Zimbabwe.” Mutsvangwa said the issue of war veterans could best be handled by the military than “abuse the country’s legal system”.
Turning to Mahiya and Matemadanda’s arrests, Mutsvangwa seized that to rope in Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has recently dissociated himself from people suggesting he succeed Mugabe.
“By whom? In what capacity? The apparatus of the State is born of war veterans. You should also refer to VP (Emmerson Mnangagwa)’s statement. We are the reserve force of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces,” he said, referring further questions to War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube.
Meanwhile, war veterans have scoffed at Mugabe’s call for an extraordinary congress to elect a new leadership for the association, describing the proposed indaba as illegal.
Following a secret meeting of senior leaders of the association, including 10 provincial chairpersons, in Harare at the weekend, the group reaffirmed its confidence in Mutsvangwa’s leadership, despite his expulsion from Zanu PF, government and Parliament.
Impeccable sources confirmed to NewsDay that a meeting was held, although most chairpersons remained tight-lipped out of fear of victimisation.
“True, there was a meeting of all chairpersons and other leaders. We agreed that Mutsvangwa will remain our chairman for the next three years as mandated by the 2014 congress in Masvingo,” a provincial chairperson said on condition of anonymity.
“Whatever Zanu PF and government are doing is illegal. Mandi Chimene (Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister) leads a splinter group and should find another name.
“We will not stop them from forming their own association if they so wish. While we are not aware of the origins of the so-called communiqué issued two weeks ago, it speaks to the matters we discussed at the meeting on the day it was released.”
The permanent secretary in the War Veterans ministry, Walter Asher Tapfumaneyi, said government would be guided by both the national and the association’s constitutions in dealing with the issue of the war veterans’ leadership.
“If you listened to the minister (Dube) at the meeting with the President last week, he said ‘we will persuade the war veterans’. Whatever we are going to do from now going forward, will be guided by the association’s rules as well as the national Constitution. We will act on proper legal advice and I am not prepared to discuss that at the moment,” he said.-Newsday