HARARE – War veterans yesterday responded with interest to a savage assault on them by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who accused them on Thursday of engaging in “treason” by endorsing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as President Robert Mugabe’s shoe-in successor.
In his Thursday polemic, delivered while addressing a Zanu PF Matabeleland North provincial committee meeting in Lupane, Mphoko warned the pro-Mnangagwa former liberation struggle fighters against talking about Mugabe’s succession while the increasingly frail nonagenarian was still on the throne.
Responding to the attack yesterday, the secretary-general of the main faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), Victor Matemadanda, had no kind words for Mphoko when he spoke to the Daily News, once again accusing the under-fire VP of having deserted Zimbabwe’s war of liberation.
“What do you think is more treasonous between saying Mnangagwa is the most senior person in the Zanla (Zanu PF military wing) ranks and deserting the war, going to Mozambique and selling guns meant for waging the liberation struggle?
“What is the bigger crime between saying Mnangagwa is senior and staying in a hotel for two years, refusing to stay in a $3 million house in a country where the economy is struggling?” Matemadanda asked angrily, referring to Mphoko’s continued and controversial stay in a five-star Harare hotel.
To highlight their resolve to fight Mphoko to the bitter end in Zanu PF’s worsening factional and succession wars, he added ominously that war veterans were “ready to defend themselves” in court if it came to that.
“We will not be intimidated by his misuse of the word treason. We never said Mnangagwa should take over today or tomorrow. We are simply investing in our future as Zanla and Mphoko must not interfere because we never interfere in Zipra (Zapu military wing) issues.
“He is annoyed by our discourse because he is the face of G40 and he thinks either Jonathan Moyo or (Saviour) Kasukuwere should be president. But that will never happen, unfortunately. That will not be decided by one who deserted the war.
“What is so special about him and his Mozambican wife? He must just quietly enjoy the good life that he was given by our president which he does not deserve anyway.
“He is least qualified to talk about our revolution because he was not part of its critical stages after he deserted,” Matemadanda said, adding that the only reason why they had a semblance of respect for Mphoko was because he was appointed by “our president”.
Jumping into the melee feet first, no-nonsense ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya told the Daily News that Mphoko “has no knowledge of the issues he is commenting on”.
“We have not endorsed anybody. We were simply discussing the arrangement we had during the war of liberation. We were in Zanla and he (Mphoko) was in Zipra. How does he know events that took place in Zanla?
“In our Zanla camp, we knew Mugabe was our number one candidate followed by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Is he (Mphoko) refuting that arrangement when he was not part of our Zanla group?
“In any event, are we not allowed to discuss and speak about our history? What kind of a country is it where you are not allowed to discuss your history?” Mahiya asked, dismissing Mphoko’s treason claim as “a fruitless plot by the G40” camp.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo declined to comment on the furore, referring the Daily News to Mphoko.
“… Mphoko is a vice president of the party, why don’t you speak to him?” Khaya-Moyo said.
In his Thursday attack, Mphoko singled out Mahiya, ZNLWVA chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, his deputy Headman Moyo and Matemadanda for tending to behave as better veterans than others.
“I want to advise these people from my professional point of view. I’m a military man and I trained very well and I’ve been a commander. War vets, never ever deceive yourselves, some of you are walking on a very dangerous course, you’re walking on the line of treason and subversion.
“These people go around talking about me, the First Lady and attack the president indirectly. That’s treason and insubordination. In actual fact building someone when the president is alive and still in office, you talk about me and say I will take over, what does that mean in military terms, it’s a coup, it’s subversion, you can go to any military annals.
“They go on to use my colleague’s name and he knows, he’s a lawyer, he’s a military man, he knows what it means to talk about the position of an elected leader. How do you claim that you will take over a position from a leader who is there and ruling? How do you do it? How are people allowed to talk about a leader who is there, by saying that you’ve ill wishes?
“When you go and speak on my behalf, you can interpret it in anyway, you’re in actual fact creating a warlord. If you speak on my behalf and say Mphoko is there, I become a warlord yet the president is there, yet everyone is supposed to rally behind the president, how then do I come in?” Mphoko was quoted saying by lapdog State media.
He also claimed that Matemadanda had only trained as a soldier after the liberation war, adding that he had allegedly rescued Mutsvangwa from imprisonment in Mozambique even as the former War Veterans minister now claimed not to know him.
The rumpus also comes as a group of 20 Masvingo Zanu PF MPs — out of the 26 party MPs in the province — met on Thursday to strategise ways of blocking the marauding war veterans from becoming “kingmakers” in the warring ruling party.
The Gutu meeting was attended by a number of Zanu PF affiliates, including the Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators Association; ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees and the smaller faction of the ZNLWVA.
However, legislators such as parliamentary whip Lovemore Matuke, Munyaradzi Kereke (Bikita West), Berita Chikwama, Ticharwa Madondo (Gutu North ) and Edmore Mhere of Masvingo Central snubbed the gathering.
Daniel Shumba, the most senior Zanu PF member in the province and deputy secretary for transport in the politburo, delivered closing remarks at the meeting saying in terms of due process, Zanu PF had endorsed Mugabe as its presidential candidate for 2018 at its hotly-disputed 2014 congress.
“Accordingly, that position has not changed and can only be changed by congress. Therefore, there is no vacancy, rendering all these unnecessary innuendos (about Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe) a nullity.
“These are unnecessary emotional posturing, which are destructive when we should instead be dealing with the MDC and the People First. These innuendos are a clear indication of indiscipline meant to cause anarchy and smacks of a coup,” Shumba said.
Zanu PF chairperson for Masvingo, Amasi Nenjana, also described the pro-Mnangagwa war veterans as “mad and stupid”, warning that their machinations would be strongly resisted by the party’s grassroots.
“The MPs disagreed with the war veterans and every Zanu PF member down to the wards is not happy with their conduct.
“What they are saying shows that they now have their own party which has a different constitution to that of Zanu PF or they are confusing our constitution and the war veterans’ one. They are mad and it is stupid for them to think they will be successful,” he said.
Nenjana also accused the former freedom fighters of “working tirelessly in various provinces campaigning against First Lady Grace Mugabe and political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
“We know by painting the first lady as bad they want to cause a heart attack on the president so that he becomes incapacitated so their own leader takes over. We know what they are up to but we will counter them,” he said, further alleging that the war veterans were being funded by an unnamed Chinese company.