HARARE – An angry President Robert Mugabe yesterday launched one of his fiercest attacks on his own party members, threatening to deal severely with disaffected war veterans who are pushing unyieldingly for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed him.
Addressing a Zanu PF central committee meeting in Harare, Mugabe shocked all and sundry when he described recent pronouncements by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) that Mnangagwa was a shoo-in to take over from him as tantamount to a rebellion.
“The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association was formed to cater for the welfare of our veterans and not to champion the struggle for political change, not to be the boss of the party and never to be the bully of the party, nor the entity to make the choices of who should be and who should not, never ever!
“Expect that within the party, always within the party and not outside the party. The dissidents tried it, they were war veterans, and you know what happened. Lots of trouble, lots of fighting, lots of suffering of course to our people, and these dissents activities cannot be allowed.
“Do we see another rise of dissident activity? The leadership with our experience says no to the war veterans association. It’s not your function, it’s not your business to talk a lot on who shall succeed the president.
“Dissident activities cannot be allowed. It ended in December 1987 when Joshua Nkomo and I put our hands together and our hearts together to say never again shall we allow this to happen,” the visibly agitated Mugabe said.
The president’s reference to the dark era of the early 1980s when the government unleashed the North Korean-trained 5th brigade that massacred an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands dropped jaws and sent a chill down the spines of most of the gathered Zanu PF bigwigs.
Mugabe was insistent that it was not the responsibility of the ZNLWVA to anoint his successor, but that of Zanu PF.
“I am stunned on what they do. You want to spill the blood again? We say to them that could not be allowed and steps are going to be taken (against them).
“It is not proper for any man to use the war veterans association as a platform to attack party top leadership, or seeking to direct party processes in the same direction preferred by some individuals in that same body.
“The mandate of the association does not allow directing party directions. It’s not your function. Yours is to improve the welfare of the war veterans,” Mugabe fumed.
He said the Zanu PF constitution was clear about the issue of succession and that “it remains the bible of all of us. We must respect the rules drawn by the party and organs of the party must be respected”.
Mugabe’s diatribe comes after the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led war veterans have increasingly appeared to challenge the nonagenarian’s authority and those of his key lieutenants.
Only last week, the former freedom fighters responded with interest to a savage assault on them by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who had accused them of engaging in “treason” by endorsing (Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s shoo-in successor.
In his own polemic, delivered while addressing a Zanu PF Matabeleland North provincial committee meeting in Lupane, Mphoko warned the pro-Mnangagwa war veterans against talking about Mugabe’s succession while the increasingly frail nonagenarian was still on the throne.
Responding to the attack, the secretary-general of the main faction of the ZNLWVA, Victor Matemadanda, roundly savaged Mphoko, 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?
“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.
No-nonsense ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya chipped in saying 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?