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War veterans dare ZANU-PF

By Andrew Kunambura

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) is co-ordinating the preparation of a document highlighting people’s grievances while seeking consensus around a candidate they shall support going into the 2018 harmonised elections, the Financial Gazette can exclusively report.

War Veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa
War Veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa

In what could further widen the chasm between them and the ruling ZANU-PF party, the former guerrilla war fighters are crafting their own version of the Freedom Charter, borrowing heavily from the South African Freedom Charter of 1955, celebrated annually as a major political milestone in South Africa’s post colonial history.

ZNLWVA members, led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, are presently going around the country, collating information to be used in crafting the document which will become more like their bible in their future engagements.

This comes as the 1970s liberation war fighters are re-organising themselves in the wake of their fallout with ZANU-PF, after they had issued a scathing communique in July, chastising the party’s leadership for ruining Zimbabwe’s once prosperous economy.

On Saturday, the war veterans threw down the gauntlet by doing away with the position of patron in their constitution, currently held by President Robert Mugabe, at their meeting in Masvingo.

President Mugabe had been ZNLWVA’s patron since 1980, when the association was formed.

The association’s secretary general, Victor Matemadanda, confirmed that ZNLWVA members were on the ground, gathering information for the report.

“It’s not about war veterans. It’s about Zimbabwe. We are gathering values for Zimbabwe, which we are all going to subscribe to. We want to answer this fundamental question: What are the characteristics of the Zimbabwe that we want to live in? If we find those, we will agree and say this is the way we want to go,” he said.

Matemadanda said the charter should produce the best candidate for the presidency of the country in 2018, elaborating thus: “Anyone who thinks of ruling this country should subscribe to this and, if that happens, the person will then go to the people to talk to the people because he would be subscribing to the conditions of Zimbabwe”.

There is a general belief in ZANU-PF that the former freedom fighters, who fought a protracted war against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government, could be preparing the ground for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom they prefer to succeed the incumbent.

But the war veterans face stiff resistance from another faction in ZANU-PF known as Generation 40 or simply G40, which is opposed to Mnangagwa.

The former liberation war fighters have openly called for the ouster of perceived G40 elements from ZANU-PF, among them national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, and Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education.

In terms of their latest project, once they have gathered information from across the country for the report, they will incorporate input from other existing material in the spirit of inclusivity.

The war veterans are currently studying “The Zimbabwe We Want,” document produced by local churches in 2006.

In producing the Freedom Charter, emphasis shall be on the equitable distribution of the country’s resources.

ZNLWVA is hoping to capture socio-economic grievances that are at the heart of the general populace, particularly in areas of equal rights, access to land, employment, education, health and peace.

The Freedom Charter will also highlight the former freedom fighters’ 2017 calendar.

The document is likely to ruffle feathers and rekindle hostilities that were laid bare after the war veterans surreptitiously authored a damning communique, denigrating the ZANU-PF leadership.

In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies sent out 50 000 volunteers into townships and the countryside to collect “freedom demands” to develop their Freedom Charter, which was a statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance.

The alliance consisted of the ANC, which is now the governing party, and its allies, namely the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress, which were fighting for the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The charter was famed for its opening demand: “The people shall govern.” At their meeting in Masvingo on Saturday, the ZNLWVA executive made it clear that they would not be supporting ZANU-PF in the 2018 elections. Their divorce from ZANU-PF was evident when they successfully campaigned for Temba Mliswa, an independent candidate, in the Norton by-election held last month.

“All these things that are happening now are happening because we allowed leadership to be monopolised by one party.

“Now it appears like if you even talk about leadership, you have committed a crime.

“There are some facts of life that we want to be answered by the people,” said Matemadanda. The ex-combatants, according to Matemadanda, are redirecting their guns towards ZANU-PF, which they have identified as the root cause of the problems affecting the country.

“The (liberation) war was fought because of the national grievances and the people agreed to support the war. Our war (with ZANU-PF) now is aimed at addressing these same national grievances,” he said.

Constantly casting his eyes around as if alert to some danger and, stretching his hands during the interview, Matemadanda continued:

“Senior ZANU-PF officials are sharing national resources among themselves. Varikuti varikudya nepedu. Tirimanyana eshiri here isu anosvisvinirwa mumuromo (they say they are eating on our behalf, are we nestlings?). Let resources be shared equitably among all the citizens.

“What we need is to find a political role and in doing so we are not targeting an individual. We are looking beyond individuals.”

He said the war veterans were not looking for funding from anyone in their latest project.

“It’s not about funding. When we went to war, no one was funding us. We can achieve this with our own little possessions. These fighters have sacrificed before for this country. They cannot fail to sacrifice once more,” he declared.

Contacted for comment this week, the Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Ex-Political Detainees and Restrictees, Tshinga Dube, said he was not aware of any charter being prepared by ZNLWVA.

“I haven’t heard of it. The Ministry is not involved in that,” he said.

ZANU-PF has itself been moving around the country trying to win the war veterans back following the fallout which saw Mutsvangwa and his entire executive being booted out of the party.

In the past two weeks, the party has made frantic efforts to extend the olive branch to the restive former freedom fighters with very limited success.

Only last week, President Mugabe released a US$3 million war chest to the Ministry of Welfare Services for War Veterans, to capacitate it in its programmes.

Last week, he handed over 13 all-terrain vehicles to the Ministry for use by field officers.

Dube, his permanent secretary, Walter Tapfumaneyi and ZANU-PF secretary for war veterans’ affairs, Sydney Sekeramayi have been deployed to the provinces to meet the former freedom fighters.

They have so far not had the warmest of receptions because the majority of the war veterans remain aligned to Mutsvangwa who was fired from both ZANU-PF and government for gross insubordination.

Tapfumaneyi was reportedly booed and scorned at a meeting in Chinhoyi on Sunday, while Dube had a torrid time when he addressed the war veterans in Mutare the previous day. This is the first time that ZANU-PF is facing a crisis in which the former freedom fighters – for long its agent provocateurs – are working against it.

On Tuesday, government, through the War Veterans Ministry, met the Mutsvangwa-led war veterans executive to try and thaw frosty relations between the former guerilla war fighters and the ZANU-PF government.

The meeting attracted some of the who is who in the ruling party such as secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo; State Security Minister, Kembo Mohadi; and War Veterans Minister, Dube.

In the joint statement released soon after the meeting on Tuesday evening, war veterans said they were being driven away from the party by the current leadership which has no respect for them, adding that they would go back to supporting the party only if it reverts back to what they referred to as the “original and authentic” leadership.

Reacting to the meeting between the war veterans and government on Tuesday, ZNLWVA spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya pointed out that that indaba would not affect their plans.

He instead criticised Tapfumaneyi, for attempting to set a parallel agenda for the meeting when the permanent secretary recently appeared in the press ahead of the meeting saying the Ministry was playing the role of intermediary between war veterans and ZANU-PF.

“The meeting was meant to address welfare issues and it does not in any way interfere with the association’s programmes.

We are going ahead with our programmes as we previously stated.

“The problem is with Tapfumaneyi who believes he is the king of war veterans and he can tell us what to do and boss us around when he is not even a member of our association and is not a member of ZANU-PF at any level,” said Mahiya.

Matemadanda weighed in saying: “The freedom charter is going ahead. Our position regarding ZANU-PF is clear and we presented it very clearly in the meeting. We can only support a ZANU-PF which respects the ideals of the revolution. The Financial Gazette