HARARE – The succession wars ravaging Zanu PF are getting more intractable by the day, with war veterans rallying behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying defiantly yesterday that they were not losing any sleep over President Robert Mugabe’s ominous warning to them last week.
The disaffected former freedom fighters, who are forcefully agitating for Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, also told the Daily News that they were “not afraid of anyone” — adding that it was allegedly clear that those opposed to Mnangagwa were feeding the increasingly frail Mugabe with lies.
This followed Mugabe’s stark warning to the war veterans on Friday last week, when the angry nonagenarian warned that he would deal with them severely if they continued to try and impose on Zanu PF his successor.
Amid the bloodletting, a respected South Africa-based think-tank has also moved to claim that despite his furious protestations, Mugabe was not in any position to stop the ex-combatants from either voicing or working to anoint his successor.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary general, Victor Matemadanda, told the Daily News yesterday that former freedom fighters had done nothing wrong to make them fearful of anyone or anything.
“We do not fear anything. Kusungwa unosungwa kana pane mhosva. Mutongi ndiye anoziva kuti pane mhosva here kana kuti kwete. Nyaya iripo ndeyekuti pakataurwa nhema (One can only be arrested if one has committed an offence. Only judiciary officers can determine if one has committed an offence. The problem is there is that some people are spreading lies about us).
“At five of our rallies, Black Jesus (a prominent war veteran) said … Mugabe is a life president. Vanhu vakanoreva nhema kuna president (Despite all this our detractors told the president lies).
“They realised that if they told the president the truth, he would not get annoyed. So, they cooked up some documents to anger him,” the straight-talking Matemadanda charged.
Zanu PF has recently been consumed by its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, with the former liberation movement currently split between two main factions — Team Lacoste, which wants Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, and ambitious young party Turks who are rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather, and who go by the moniker Generation 40 (G40). Matemadanda said Mugabe’s threats that he directed at them last week were “a culmination of the information that he is being fed by the G40” — a group that he once again accused of “pushing a sinister agenda”.
However, he said, war veterans and other “right-minded Zimbabweans” would not lose sleep over “the G40’s schemes”.
“We are not panicking against nyaya dzenhema (lies). We are going to continue fighting the G40. We know that they are pushing a sinister agenda,” he thundered.
He also implored Mugabe “to get the correct information” of what had transpired in their meetings from security agents, instead of getting it from the G40. Matemadanda also dismissed outright claims that deliberations at their hotly-debated Gweru meeting, where the war veterans are said to have endorsed Mnangagwa’s candidature for the presidency, had been recorded.
“Hatityi nhema. Inyaya yavanhu vari kuda kutsvaka kuputsa musangano (We are not afraid of lies because these are the machinations of people who want to destroy Zanu PF). We don’t know anything about that so-called Blue Ocean document that they presented to the president. We never said vaMnangagwa ngavatorere vaMugabe chigaro ivo vari vapenyu (we never said Mnangagwa must take over as president while Mugabe is still alive).
“We never said that. That’s a blue lie,” he said forcefully.
Meanwhile, Cape Town-based think tank, African Economics (NKC), has said in its latest instalment on Zimbabwe that Mugabe’s rant last week was nothing more than “empty threats” as his power within Zanu PF was waning.
“Mugabe’s threats of brutal force against the war vets are empty words. The clear tension between the old freedom fighters and what they see as a party and a president that have lost their way does hold some potential for violence,” it said.
NKC analyst, Gary van Staden, also pointed out that by threatening the ex-combatants, Mugabe was allegedly trying to appease his powerful wife Grace.
“Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association may well regard Mnangagwa as entitled to the presidency by virtue of his current position and old established agreements, as to who would take over, but local sources believe the move was equally a rejection of the ambitions of (Mrs) Mugabe who has already become the voice, if not the power, behind the crumbling throne,” he said.
According to NKC, the recent threats by Mugabe could also invoke violence and serve to further isolate the nonagenarian.
“The tit-for-tat threats and the undercurrents of the succession struggle will continue to reduce the once all-powerful Zanu PF to a shadow of its former self,” the think-tank said, adding that the current in-fighting would work as an advantage to opposition parties going forward.
“Like (Mrs) Mugabe, Mnangagwa is using proxies to fight his battles, but when the dust settles it may well be the opposition parties that steal the prize from under the noses of the current, squabbling ruling party,” it said.
Addressing a Zanu PF central committee meeting in Harare last week, Mugabe shocked his lieutenants when he described recent pronouncements by the 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 dissidents 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 Korea-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 can 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”.