HARARE – War veterans loyal to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa have embarked on a whirlwind tour of the country, as they apparently step up their efforts to ensure that he succeeds President Robert Mugabe — preferably ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
The restless former liberation struggle fighters have so far been to Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Masvingo, as they mount what Zanu PF insiders say is a last-ditch effort to “rescue” Mnangagwa’s political career in the face of unrelenting intra-party attacks on the Midlands godfather and ahead of the youth league’s “million-man march” on May 25.
Contacted by the Daily News yesterday for comment, the spokesperson of the main faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA),
Douglas Mahiya confirmed the meetings saying there was “a strong and special relationship” between war vets and Mnangagwa that “the G40 (Generation 40 Zanu PF faction which is opposed to the VP) cannot wish away”.
“Anyone who is opposed to Mnangagwa is opposed to the president because he is the one who appointed him. They (G40) should be reminded that the VP is an ex-combatant who went to war even before some of us, and as such there is bound to be a nexus between him and war veterans.
“They (G40) will not understand that relationship between comrades, and we cannot be seen to be hostile to a fellow comrade,” Mahiya said denying, however, that this was a campaign for Mnangagwa’s candidature for 2018 — a claim he dismissed as a figment of the Zanu PF youth league’s imagination.
But a party official opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe was adamant that the meetings that the war veterans were holding were aimed at “carrying Ngwena (Mnangagwa) to the presidency ahead of 2018”, adding that they were also using the gatherings to attack party national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and certain youth league leaders.
“The problem that the youths and the commissariat department are having is that they are using the wrong formula to mobilise people. They should be using the war veterans’ formula, but then what can we do?
“We have different objectives for the party. While they seek to destroy it, war veterans want to see stability and discipline in Zanu PF. The national political commissar should swallow his pride and come to us so that we can give him direction,” Mahiya countered.
He also claimed that Mugabe had directed them to hold the controversial meetings, which he said were also meant to report back the outcome of the war veterans’ indaba with the nonagenarian in Harare last month.
“These people (G40) are not privy to what we discussed with the president when we met him. He directed us to go and give feedback to our constituency.
“He asked us to inform people that the day we meet with him annually will be called Chimurenga Day. So, do they want to stop us from doing that?” Mahiya asked.
While the G40 faction is adamant that Mugabe should be the party’s presidential candidate in 2018, when he will be 94, Mnangagwa’s supporters say it’s their man’s turn to lead the party and the country.
Team Lacoste is also pointing to the country’s dying economy and Mugabe’s visible frailty as reasons why the nonagenarian should pass on the baton stick now to Mnangagwa.
So ugly have the party’s factional and succession wars become that while the G40 faction is mobilising for its one million-man march — ostensibly as a public display of its loyalty to Mugabe — Mnangagwa’s are working to block the demonstration, fearing that it’s targeted at the beleagured VP.
The Daily News also reported in its edition yesterday that there were growing fears within the warring Zanu PF that deadly violence could break out when party youths opposed to Mnangagwa conduct their march in Harare on Africa Day.
The serious concerns mounted after party youths aligned to Mnangagwa came out in the open to say that they would mobilise Zanu PF structures and supporters to block the much-hyped million-man march.
“I’m concerned that things are deteriorating rapidly again within the party, after a few weeks of relative peace.
“What is very clear is that the youths who plan to block the march have the support of some war veterans who have already been disagreeing openly themselves with the march organisers.
“It’s not looking good, and many of us fear that violence could erupt as witnessed in Harare last time when the war veterans were accosted by riot police,” a senior party official said as youths linked to Mnangagwa contemptuously described the planned march as a “waste of resources”.
Team Lacoste youths, led by former youth league chairpersons for Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West — Godfrey Tsenengamu and Vengai Musengi respectively — confirmed to the Daily News that they would mobilise people to block the planned march.
“The march is a waste of resources that should be channelled towards income-generating projects for jobless youths countrywide who are struggling to make ends meet.
“Is there really anyone who wants to depose the president? Why the march then and what is the intention after all is done? Youths must refuse to be used by people pursuing a sinister agenda.
“The resources they (Zanu PF marchers) wish to waste on this day must be turned into a revolving youth fund . . . it should be used to either start or develop their businesses,” Musengi said pointedly.
“I appeal to my fellow comrades that we collectively launch the ‘Boycott the March Campaign’ as the 2018 polls are around the corner. Does our president need this march or he needs more supporters to be mobilised into the party to add to the million plus votes he got in 2013?
“Personally, and in my individual capacity as a patriotic youth of both Zanu PF and Zimbabwe, I am going to mobilise youths against this march and I mean it. Someone has to stop this madness or we will stop it by ourselves.
“What do we intend to achieve through this march really if I may ask? In 2007, we had a similar initiative of a million-man march by Jabulani Sibanda and what happened in the March 2008 elections?” Tsenengamu chipped in, asking rhetorically.
In 2007, Sibanda led war veterans in the original so-called million-man march and a year later, Mugabe spectacularly went on to lose that year’s presidential elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mahiya also told the Daily News on Monday that war veterans would not be part of the march, as “the protest is all meant to divide the party”.
“The march is not going to bring food on the table. It is not going to mobilise people to support the party. It is not going to make contributions in as far as the resuscitation of industries is concerned.
“Isu takatoneta nekufamba tichibva kuMozambique tisu takauya napresident netsoka saka regai vanoda kuonekwa vaite (War veterans are tired having walked all the way from Mozambique on foot together with Mugabe. Let those who want to be seen to be doing something go for it). So, we are not going to attend their march,” he said.
Mahiya also called on the youths to rather “look for methods to take the economy forward, not marching. It is not going to benefit anyone but those who are in top positions”.
Tsenengamu also suggested that by seeking to mobilise one million youths “in a country of over 13 million” the Zanu PF youth league was admitting that it had failed to mobilise enough support for Mugabe.
“Interestingly, Zimbabwe has got no less than 13 million people and my leadership sees it fit to showcase support for the leader through these one million marchers. Where are the other 12 million people?” he asked derisively.
“It is estimated that youths constitute around 60 percent of the population and so out of about seven million of the 13 million people my leaders are saying the youth league of Zanu PF has just a million people. Is that not failure?” Tsenengamu added.