HARARE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday warned disaffected former freedom fighters who have been increasingly challenging his authority and that of his close lieutenants to watch out, as he will not hesitate to expel them from the warring Zanu PF if they continue on their confrontational path.
Addressing party supporters at Chamisa Primary School in Gutu, the increasingly frail nonagenarian, who is facing an unprecedented internal rebellion in his ruling party since he came to power in April 1980, bluntly told the restless war veterans that they were not bigger than Zanu PF.
“War veterans must work to unite the party. Taiva tese kuhondo wani? (We were together during the war). You are supposed to unite people,” Mugabe implored the ex-combatants, many of whom are aligned to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“Ko iwo mawar vets tavakupera wani vamwe nerufu (Our time as war veterans is passing), so let this young generation lead us. Munofana kuziva kuti nhaka inotorwa nevadiki vari muparty vanoziva gwara remusangano (You should know that our trusted youths will take over).
We respect you as freedom fighters but kubva kuhondo politics ndidzo dzaiva pamberi (even during the war politics led the gun). Mukarasa gwara tokukandai panze (If you go astray we will expel you from the party) like what we did to (Rugare) Gumbo and others.
“Now vana Gumbo are saying vane vanhu but toti regai vaone 2018 (Gumbo and others that we expelled now claim that they have many followers and we will meet them at the 2018 polls),” Mugabe said.
The nonagenarian was speaking after war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa were said to be working feverishly to sabotage the planned “million-man march” by Zanu PF youths scheduled for Harare on May 25 — which the former freedom fighters fear is targeted at the Midlands godfather.
Manicaland Zanu PF youth deputy secretary for information and publicity, Passionate Dandajena, revealed in an interview with the Daily News a fortnight ago that ex-combatants aligned to Team Lacoste were working hard to derail the march, just as the faction had allegedly done in the run-up to the 21st February Movement celebrations in Masvingo in February.
“Our efforts to fundraise for the march are being frustrated by a group of war veterans led by … (war veterans leader Christopher) Mutsvangwa. But we will not be derailed and will achieve our mission in spite of their opposition,” Dandajena said.
She said unlike previously, when the youths had only approached individuals and ministers that they felt were willing to support their programmes, this time they were approaching “everyone” — a move she said would also “expose” those who were against the march which they say is aimed at demonstrating support for Mugabe.
“We are approaching everyone and this will expose those who either run away from their offices when we approach them or find other funny excuses to refuse us help.
“There are many senior officials who always try to avoid supporting the youth league here,” Dandajena charged.
Another regional youth official was even more blunt, naming Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Water minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Agriculture minister Joseph Made as being among the bigwigs who were allegedly opposed to the march.
“Muchinguri leads this group and Chinamasa appears to be even busier than the president himself,” the youth league official, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, said.
“The million-man march is meant to offer support for the leadership of Mugabe and not to de-campaign any individual. Some MPs are also not showing solidarity because they feel the march will be targeted at them, which is not the case at all,” Dandajena said when pressed to shed more light on the march.
But Zanu PF insiders who have previously spoken to the Daily News have said the march will be punctuated by anti-Mnangagwa slogans, as well as placards denouncing his supposed key allies such as prominent war veterans leader Mutsvangwa and Victor Matemadanda.
“The march will put Team Lacoste in its proper place because the numbers will prove that the group has no support.
“Even in their supposed stronghold of Masvingo, more than 5 000 youths will participate in the march and those who thought that Mnangagwa had support will be put to shame because some of his supposed staunch supporters there will be with us,” a Zanu PF women’s league official said.
Meanwhile, the disaffected war veterans have also rekindled their assaults on Mugabe’s other deputy, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, bluntly accusing him of abusing his office and persecuting all perceived supporters of Mnangagwa.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News early this week, the spokesperson of the main faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), Douglas Mahiya, claimed that Mphoko was hounding members of his lobby group because they had exposed his links to Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks — the Generation 40 (G40) group — which is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.
In March this year, the disaffected former liberation struggle fighters also passed a damaging vote of no confidence against Mphoko, accusing him of fanning factionalism and tribalism within Zanu PF — after the gaffe-prone VP suggested at a rally in Chiweshe that it did not follow that since Mugabe was a Zezuru, a Karanga would succeed him.
Mnangagwa is Karanga, the biggest ethnic group among Zimbabwe’s indigenous communities.
An angry also Mahiya accused Mphoko of ordering the eviction of the son of ZNLWVA’s secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, Tafireyi, from his Pavlova Farm in Midlands, to settle political scores and to punish war veterans for backing Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations.
He also claimed that Mphoko was persecuting Matemadanda, one of the most vocal supporters of Mnangagwa in Zanu PF’s vicious factional and succession wars, because Matemadanda had allegedly mobilised the ZNLWVA to pass the March vote of no confidence against Mphoko.
“We are being persecuted by the VP because we exposed him as being behind the people who are working to destroy Zanu PF and the legacy of war veterans.
“He is not happy that we exposed him for being behind G40 and he is now using his office to frustrate us,” Mahiya charged.
He also savaged Mphoko for “stooping so low, to the extent of fighting a war veteran’s son to settle a political score”.
“How does a whole vice president come down to deal with an issue that should be resolved by the Lands minister? Why is the minister himself not raising the same questions that he (Mphoko) is raising?
“It is clear that he (Mphoko) is fighting this war on behalf of (Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour) Kasukuwere.
“He is also not happy that we passed a vote of no confidence in him after he said statements that we viewed as tribal while he was addressing a rally in Chiweshe.
“That proved to us that he is G40 and we will stop at nothing to ensure that we destroy such people. We are going to continue telling the people what he is doing to destroy Zanu PF and our legacy,” Mahiya vowed.