War veterans seek audience with Mugabe over unmet demands
By Andrew Kunambura
Members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) are seeking another crisis indaba with their former patron, President Robert Mugabe before the end of the year over their unmet demands.
The highly irritable ex-combatants had a meeting with the President on April 7 this year, their first in 20 years, where they presented a long list of grievances.
They had last met him in 1996 when they were demanding compensation for participating in the 1970s liberation war that helped bring the country’s independence in 1980.
During the April meeting, the war veterans asked for tax exemptions, allocation of some shares in the country’s blue chip companies and the sacking of ZANU-PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, among some of their demands.
President Mugabe wholly ignored their demands, prompting them to request for yet another meeting with him in July which was not granted.
In anger and frustration, they held their own meeting at which they announced that they were withdrawing their support for the veteran politician.
A stinging communiqué critical of ZANU-PF leadership that was released on the day of the meeting led to the ZNLWVA executive being expelled from the ruling party and subsequently arrested for undermining the authority of the President.
Their case, however, failed to stick at the Harare Magistrate Court after the State failed to get any witnesses. They have since been removed from remand and are back with further demands. They claim that now that they are out of ZANU-PF, they can speak their minds more freely, hence their latest demands.
ZNLWVA national spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, lifted the lid this week on their latest demands in an exclusive interview with the Financial Gazette. He said war veterans wanted to meet the President primarily over deteriorating standards of living in the country.
“The President must come to us without any intermediaries. We want to talk together and we want to agree or disagree. We seek closure. If we are to part ways forever, then so be it,” said Mahiya, violently throwing his arms around the begrimed office in some building in central Harare.
It’s a small room furnished by a small common rectangular desk and four plastic chairs.
The office is used by an organisation known as widows of war veterans. Following the conversation were four others, two of them fellow war veterans who kept nodding throughout the interview.
The other two were women, roughly in their late fifties or early sixties, only introduced to us as widows of war veterans. One was carefully slicing a cucumber which was to be served later on during the interview.
“We want to sit down with him so that we understand where the compasses have gone wrong,” he shouted as if addressing pedestrians strutting on the street two stories below.
War veterans, said Mahiya, want President Mugabe to explain if the money he recently gave to the Ministry of War Veterans, War Collaborators, Detainees and Restrictees was meant to fund the toppling of their executive and replace it with the one led by Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene.
ZNLWVA are adamant that the money was provided to fund activities aimed at ousting them; claims which Tapfumaneyi has since vehemently refuted.
“We want to know what the US$3,5 million was meant for because as we speak, school fees for our children have not been paid for four terms and if we do not see them getting paid in January, we will know it was abused,” he retorted, fizz forming on either corner of his mouth.
He said they would soon approach secretary for war veterans’ affairs in ZANU-PF, Sydney Sekeramayi, to arrange the meeting with President Mugabe.
“We hope Sekeramayi will raise it with the President. This time, we do not want anyone to come between us. We want to hear directly from him and him to hear directly from us. We want to talk frankly. We are now out of ZANU-PF and we can frankly say our hearts out without fear.
“We think people at the Ministry (of war veterans) are fighting us and so we don’t want them anywhere nearer (the meeting with President Mugabe). We therefore do not want any money committed to that meeting.
“We don’t want government to commit its money. We can go there on our own as we have done before,” he said, casting his eyes towards the two men who, now munching cucumber chunks, respond by nodding their heads in total agreement.
He did not hide the war veterans’ desire to see Kasukuwere being removed from the commissariat office, repeating their now familiar chorus:
“He is not qualified for that office. It’s suitable only for occupation by someone with liberation war credentials, someone who knows the party ideology. We currently have 34 000 members in the association. All of them qualify.”
He said the ZNLWA was transforming itself from being a ZANU-PF affiliate into a pressure group that stands for the welfare of the Zimbabwean citizens, adding that they would now never join any other party.
“As war veterans, we are not going to join another political party, but we will tell political parties the ethos and values of the revolution to which they should conform. We call upon ZANU-PF and government to go back to the basics,” he charged.
Interestingly, the demand for a fresh indaba comes after they recently amended their constitution. Among other things, they elected to do away with the position of patron, which President Mugabe has occupied since the inception of the ZNLWVA in the late 1990s.
While in public they have claimed they no longer have anything to do with ZANU-PF, their undying affection for the 92-year-old leader and the ruling party has, however, left many confused. The Financial Gazette