HARARE – Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has said it is now ready to work with National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru, claiming President Robert Mugabe was the one who divided them.
The ex-liberation fighters played an instrumental role in the campaign to unseat Mujuru as vice president in 2014.
While Mujuru, who joined the liberation struggle as a teenager, was famed for downing a Rhodesian helicopter with a machine gun on February 17 1974, ZNLWVA chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa rubbished the claim saying she never did — blemishing her war record and credentials.
Mutsvangwa’s revelation came at a time Mujuru was under vicious public attacks from President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, which culminated in the former VP’s humiliating ouster from the ruling party and government.
However, speaking to the Daily News this week, ZNLWA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda said they had finally realised that Mugabe has been using divide and rule tactics on war veterans, and they were now engaging Mujuru and NPP vice president John Shumba Mvundura.
“We are ready to work with Mujuru and Mvundura. As war veterans we want to be united. Mugabe was trying to divide us for him to remain in power,” he said.
Asked to give details of exactly how they were used by Mugabe to attack Mujuru, Matemadanda refused to reveal the details saying “past is past let us move forward, we want to bring all war veterans on board”.
“We went to war together with Mujuru and Mvundura and it is high time for us to work together for the good of war veterans. Mugabe was using a divide and rule tactic on us and this has come to an end because we want to map the future of our country. We want to stop such slogans like pasi nanhingi (down with someone). We are ready to engage all war veterans.
“We are also going to engage people in Diaspora,” he added.
The fallout between Mugabe and the ex-combatants burst into the public domain in July last year after the war vets released a damning communiqué in which they savaged the Zanu PF leader and demanded he steps down.
The shock move ended a relationship dating back to the days of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war.
The war veterans also said Mugabe’s continued grip on power was now a stumbling block to Zimbabwe’s development, adding almost maliciously that the nonagenarian would be “a hard-sell” if he ever contemplated contesting next year’s elections.
Mugabe responded by warning the war veterans that they would be dealt with severely, including through the use of extra-judicial suppression methods that his former liberation movement incorporated during the country’s independence war — such as incarcerating dissenters in inhuman dungeons where they were forced to live like caged rats.
Shortly after that, police launched a savage crackdown against the war vets leadership and arrested five officials, including Matemadanda and ZNLWA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, who were set free by the courts.
Over the years, war veterans have served as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.