Harare – A group of veterans from the 1970s war who attempted to gather in the centre of Harare for a rally on Thursday were teargassed by riot police.
Egypt Dzinemunhenzva, the head of the little-followed African National Party tweeted: “Who would have thought war vets would be tear gassed in Zimbabwe?”
Until now, war veterans have been largely untouchable in Zimbabwean politics. But they are mostly aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is fighting what appears to be a losing battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe, 91.
Mnangagwa and his supporters are opposed by another faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party, known as the Generation 40 or G40. Its members are close to Mugabe’s powerful wife Grace, who is playing a key role in the power struggle. She – and the G40 – currently clearly have the upper hand.
“War vets taste ZANU PF brutality. Fools, they thought themselves special,” tweeted @tbmoyo.
The official Herald and the private Newsday online said the war veterans had gathered at the City Sports Centre in Harare on Thursday morning.
According to Newsday, police said the war vets only had clearance for their rally to be held at the Zanu-PF headquarters.
Some war veterans reportedly fainted and had to be taken to hospital, according to Newsday’s Silence Charumbira.
Police also fired a water cannon at the war veterans, according to a tweet from prominent local journalist Clarkson Mambo.
Analysts are already suggesting that the move by the police shows they are on the side of the G40.
Watchdog @ZimMediaReview said: “ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] clampdown on war vets tells us a lot about security forces’ (particularly ZRP) position in the Zanu-PF wars.”
Many believe that it was the war veterans’ demand for unbudgeted payouts in 1997 that set Zimbabwe sliding into a decade of economic crisis.
Whatsapp messages have been sent out that its an all out war in Harare tomorrow.