HARARE – President Robert Mugabe torched a political storm on Thursday when he described recent pronouncements by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa should be his guaranteed heir, as akin to the behaviour of dissidents.
A number of liberation struggle stalwarts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday savaged Mugabe, accusing him of having no interest whatsoever in the interest of the people and the country, following the nonagenarian’s threat that he would deal decisively with those rallying behind Mnangagwa.
War veteran and former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said there was no need for Mugabe to “criticise and condemn” war veterans in the manner that he had done.
“War veterans have a vision of creating a democratic society. They see that the party (Zanu PF) has been hijacked by people who were not involved in the liberation struggle, which does not work.
“Look at the people in the leadership now. They (war veterans) are not there. And because of that, they are bound to complain. They (Zanu PF leaders) have to understand their plight,” Gumbo said.
“The war veterans have grievances. He (Mugabe) should talk to them. The country has problems and the war veterans have problems and he should address that in a mature way,” he added.
Another war veteran, Thomas Chitauro, also said Mugabe seemingly had no interest in the advancement of Zimbabweans, adding that an impression was being created that the president wanted to create a dynasty.
“Mugabe has never liked war veterans. He was being hypocritical all along, appearing as though he loved them. Freedom fighters were wholly marginalised.
“Some of them have been living under the illusion that they are part of the system, but they are now seeing that they are not. They are now in unison that leadership must be passed on,” Chitauro said.
“They are only realising now that Mugabe is building his own dynasty. Mugabe has no interest in the war veterans, and the country. He only considers himself and when people start seeing that, he becomes angry.
“We expect him to use violence. Mugabe has always been violent,” Chitauro, whose nom de guerre was Kabhasikoro, added.
A Zanu PF official perceived to be close to Mnangagwa, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said Mugabe “was reckless” and that it was “time that we all stand up against him”.
“He has been abusing us for a long time and we want that to stop now. This is not a private company, but a country that belongs to all of us. We are free to talk about succession because it affects us,” the war veteran said.
“He (Mugabe) does not know war and violence, that is why he speaks in such a manner. We do not want a repeat of what happened in the early 1980s. The president must actually apologise for that dark period and not invoke painful memories,” he added.
A civil society organisation, Heal Zimbabwe, also castigated Mugabe’s dissident statement, which it said threatened peace and reconciliation efforts in the country.
“Heal Zimbabwe notes that such utterances by the president have the potential of eroding the gains of the 1987 Unity Accord and inciting warring parties from within his party to resort to violence. Actions and utterances by the war veterans in past weeks do not warrant violence as a solution.
“Peacefully addressing concerns of the war veterans in line with Section 90 of the Constitution which compels the president to promote unity and peace in the nation for the benefit and well-being of all citizens is one good option the president has,” the organisation said.
It said further that the country was still “in dire need” of healing and reconciliation
“What is disturbing and worrying about the president’s utterances is that he compared the annihilation of what he describes as ‘dissidents’ during the Gukurahundi era in the 1980s to the fate that awaits the war veterans who are talking about succession.
“Scars from violent episodes such as Gukurahundi, land reform, Murambatsvina and elections, particularly the 2002, 2005 and 2008 ones have not been addressed. Making reference to the sad violent past as a solution to dissent is a threat to peaceful co-existence,” Heal Zimbabwe added.