Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Open letter to war vets

By Sydney Chisi

Revolutionary greetings to you maComrades. Hoping I find you well  wherever you might be especially after some good rains that might have unfortunately turned bad in other regions, but nevertheless, I believe that goho rinenge riri nani, and you will be able not only to feed your families, but the nation as well.

Photo: Some of the former Zimbabwe liberation war fighters who were injured during the Liberation war attend a meeting with their patron and President Robert Mugabe at the City Sports Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, 7 April 2016. Zimbabwe has about 34,000 living war veterans and it is the first time ever that Mugabe has held a meeting of this nature which was meant to discuss corruption and the welfare of the war veterans. EPA/AARON UFUMELI
Photo: Some of the former Zimbabwe liberation war fighters who were injured during the Liberation war attend a meeting with their patron and President Robert Mugabe at the City Sports Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, 7 April 2016. Zimbabwe has about 34,000 living war veterans and it is the first time ever that Mugabe has held a meeting of this nature which was meant to discuss corruption and the welfare of the war veterans. EPA/AARON UFUMELI

Just to say having been brought up in a very strict Catholic church all my life, I grew up wondering  why there were so many churches if God was one  and we all believe that His only Son died and resurrected to serve the world.  Different answers came through with strong justification of course especially from my colleagues whose churches had ‘split’ from the Catholic Church.

The debates remained  very cordial as we agreed to disagree on what defines Christianity and faith. In the recent past, a similar debate emerged which turned out to be divisive, polarizing with high levels of intolerance as we interrogate the world  of  ‘prosperity gospel’. Religion unlike before, started having names such as vanhu vekwa Nhingi, class system began to occupy spaces of faith, such as the so called ‘platinum, gold or silver tables’  during Church services.

Reason why am giving you this background maComrades is simply because I have seen and read the journey that you have travelled both in the pre and post independence Zimbabwe. Your strong conviction that you needed to liberate the nation and not individuals motivated you to leave the comfort of your homes, families or schools and risked your lives.  What brought you into this armed struggle was a continuation of a struggle that had been started by vanaMbuya Nehanda, Lobengula, Mzilikazi and Chaminuka amongst many  early resistant  forces who were never partisan.

Whilst the issue of land was one of the major bond of contention  that needed redress, it was also accompanied by other software issues such as equality, respect and democratization of the new republic centred on ‘one person one vote’.  Just like the case of the early Church which sort salvation of people into heaven with no payment, the liberation struggle had common objectives, that of liberating the country and ensure that if once liberated, it lives up to the ethos and principles of the struggle that of making the citizens happy ever after.

The events that having been happening in your circles has made me to write to you semwana akazokura nyika yasununguka, I was very young in 1980. Am sure you agree with me that your reason to go to war was not just to liberate the country, but to monitor how that liberation was going to unfold in the hands of people you had entrusted with civilian leadership.

It is that civilian leadership which might have joined the struggle towards its sunset having acquired education listening to Elvis Presley, whilst gunshots were the only music you knew. It is a public secret that the majority of you came back to an independent Zimbabwe muri illiterate.

They took advantage of that collective weakness in you and like the modern Church began to redefine what was good for you to be prosperous by being associated with an individual(Papa) and not even the national question(heaven).

The early civilian leadership led by ZANU(PF) part of  which is still around did not waste time and  immediately captured the bulk of you comrades by telling you that your fellow liberation comrades across the political divide  whom you had joined hands with to defeat the Smith regime, were now an enemy in an independent nation.

Some of you who were ZANLA or ZIPRA and had been demobilized witnessed in total shock as even those who were Shona, but ZIPRA were not spared in the massacre of many thousands of defenseless people many who were not even former combatants.  The ZIPRA comrades lost not just their lives, but their farms rendering them poorer than they were before going into the war.

To survive, some were made to praise and worship that same leadership that had presided over the killing of many people, sacrificing the founding principles of the liberation struggle (vana vevhu) along the way because of greed.

It is not a secret that there were always under-currencies of anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction emerging within your rank and file including those who were still serving in the security sector as the government failed to meet some of your socio-economic post independence expectations.

The initial land invasions in Matabeleland of a research station in 1996, followed by the Svosve Villagers in Mashonaland East, only gave a signal of what was to follow. Instead of looking at the issue as the government’s failure to redistribute land  and deal with your compensation issues,  your agenda to demand what was rightfully yours,  was hijacked by the elite political leadership and made it  to look racist and only as a  land and money concern. How the new republic was being government was silenced.

Yes it was worthy pushing the government to redress the inequalities associated with land ownership, but maComrades did it solve your problems 20 years later?  Whilst you were taking pieces of land, the civilian leadership now diluted with people who did not have any liberation war credential or deserters, where taking more farms and collapsing the economy to which your land was supposed to depend on.

My dear comrades remember this, that following the land redistribution process, 70% of the land is now held by small farm producers, 13% by middle scale farmers, and 11% by large farms and estates. This ‘re‐peasantisation’  and I say so because hamuna matitle deeds ma Comrades saka you celebrated getting land without understanding what it really meant in ownership terms nor production.

This has resulted in changes in wealth distribution from a landed racial minority to mostly ‘landless and land‐poor’  classes the majority who are you, War Veterans, restrictees or war collaborators. Moreover these changes on the land have created a new entrepreneurial dynamism and productive potential resulting in new areas of economic activity with novel marketing and value chains depending on who you are politically connected to. Reason why other War Veterans made it and the majority of you even poorer.

This is the reason why 20 years later we still call you “new farmers” and regardless of having acquired land, you still wait for  government inputs under different names with same poor results. The reason being that that land without tittle, is not a tool for your empowerment neither can you confidently say one day you can pass it on to your children. In short, that piece of land you sit on is UNBANKABLE.

Just like the modern Church, the gospel of some of you maComrades’ prosperity fast became anchored patronage, and celebration of mediocrity. Those of you who chose to sacrifice the principles of the liberation struggle are the ones who are rich and untouchable, they have carried what the late Edison Zvobgo  called “primitive accumulation of wealth”.

Those of you who at the turn of independence were wise enough to realize that the civilian leadership in the new government had all the ingredients of bad governance and selfishness as experienced especially in either Mozambique or Zambia, decided to disengage.

The few maComrades even refused to be associated with the hand outs from the party and relatively remained independent in thought and in livelihood. Some continued with their quest of ensuring that Zimbabwe becomes a democracy, that there is rule of law and respect of human rights.

Names like Paul Temba Nyathi, Nyasha Masiiwa (Magwaza Chimurenga)and Dzinashe Machingura (Cde Dzino RIP) come to mind amongst many others, whilst some totally disengaged and  went underground like Victor Mhizha(Elisha) Murira and still doing great things for the nation.

Fowadhi Machi!  The recent events in the War Veterans body  has signaled a typical equivalent of the modern church,  how in quest of dealing with personal socio-economic ills, saw the mushrooming of  Svondo dzeminana, mainly to show who is most loyal to which ‘prophet’ and which ‘prophet’ is more powerful, in the return, the ‘prophets’ making a killing through ‘seeding’ and ‘tithe’.

The issue of getting into heaven is sadly left between the congregant and God!.   Ma war Veterans you began to split both in opinion and action, some of you openly told the world that you have seen your Damascene day and  have lost faith in the national  leadership you  bestowed on certain people through Mugagao Declaration of 1975 or through the 1987 Unity accord.

Dumiso Dabengwa  showed when he  resuscitated ZAPU a few years ago and Chris Mutsvangwa led froup did the same through their ‘communique’ in 2016.  Still those who had benefitted from patronage and the ever dangling political carrot remained in the Unity Accord making Cde Dumiso to look like a perennial sell out having been a victim when he was jailed during Gukurahundi.

Today maComrades,  we see the resilient ZIPRA War Veterans still pushing to get their farms back all alone in their solitary corner, on the other hand Chris Mutsvangwa led group pushing for clarity on the ZANU(PF) succession debate with a covert lobby for Emmerson Mnangagwa, but  heavily opposed by the Mandi Chimene group which says there is no vacancy in the presidium and any talk of succession is premature even when the world can see that at 93 years, the burden is too much on the presiddent.

We find another grouping led by Paker Chipowera and the late Francis Zimuto (Black Jesus) joining the then Zimbabwe People First party insearch for a political solution. Izvi zvamava zvinounza pundutso here kuvana veVhu?  Is what’s motivating you the initial founding objectives or you have become victims of patronage, wealth accumulation, and you only voice out when you see a threat to your pockets by abusing the liberation struggle history as a cover up?

I read the press with total shock and said to myself “welcome back to the year 2000” when an announcement  came from your Ministry saying the government was going to parcel out land for farming to you. Its noble, but just like the modern gospel of prosperity, the most wizardry of ‘prophets’ will devise different tactics to sustain membership which in turn will line their pockets through ‘anointed water, condoms, bricks or grass’.

Is this land you are being offered on the eve of elections, a later day politically anointed land?  My question to you maComrades angu is, just as I questioned my colleagues from the gospel of prosperity is that, is being given land without title but just some 99 year lease empowerment  or just as the anointing oil is not salvation, will you not  keep on going back to the imagined temporary source of deliverance for reprieve?

To say that you should apply for land in a province of your choice, provided  you didn’t benefit from the 2000 land reform programme, will it not allow what you have always been fighting against to prevail, that is multiple farm ownership by the elite?

It is my thinking Comrades that  as celebrated gallant War Veterans, you must not be seen as a welfare outcasts or mercenaries, but people who deserve recognition and be allowed to play a critical role in the political economy of the country. You can’t continue being given land that does not provide you with opportunities for empowerment, through giving it value nor transfer to your siblings.

Why would the government realize only now that there are some of you who didn’t benefit from the land reform conveniently after 17 years when most of you no longer have confidence in the current political leadership?  If you could remove yourselves from the partisan corner that you might have unwillingly found yourselves in, and join the masses in finishing your liberation struggle mandate ini nevamwe vese taizofara, Zimbabweans would salute you even more.

One of the pro democracy leaders,  Morgan Tsvangirai in his press statement on the 9th of March 2017,  said “Together, lets confront those who have betrayed the ethos of that sacred war. Together , we all complete the unfinished business of the liberation struggle.” 

With this quote,  let me finish off by saying that to those of you who have since begun to see the light for a better Zimbabwe that deserves sound leadership, equality and equity regardless of race, sex or tribe, go out and dismantle the structures of violence that were set in your name by the State.

Go into the communities and preach peace and be the defenders of people’s choice when it comes to elections. Tell the nation and live up to the narrative that you went to war for everyone and that everyone who was there then played an unforgettable role. No single political party, individual nor tribe liberated the country.

As War Veterans you must be all embracing.  Remember, when you left your homes and schools, some laughed at you saying it was a mirage to defeat Ian Smith, the same can be said about you and me today who believe that this struggle is genuine, home grown and is for everyone, but unfinished.

Ndini Wenyu

Sydney Chisi