War vets U-turn on Mugabe: was Margaret Dongo right?
By Benjamin Semwayo
Margaret Dongo famously labelled war vets Mugabe’s wives for subserviently complying with all his demands, no matter how absurd, and bootlicking him at every opportunity that presents itself.
That the nation of Zimbabwe, including the war vets, has been short-changed by the First Family is indisputable and is confirmed by the fact that it went from being poverty-stricken at independence to being one of the wealthiest families in the world by any standard.
The First Family was propped up for decades by war vets, to whom the Mugabes turned each time they faced sure defeat at the polls, only to discard like used rags when they had weathered the storm.
While the nation groaned under the iron rod with which Mugabe ruled, looking with expectancy at the war vets, whom the masses expected to once again come to their aid and tame the Frankenstein they created, the former fighters were content with the crumbs that fell from Mugabe’s table, which they gratefully scrambled for and even mauled one another for.
The reason for the war vets’ inaction was not because they were unaware of the injustice perpetrated by Mugabe and his cronies. To the contrary they knew all too well the shenanigans of the First Family, many of them being close to the corridors of power and consequently being privy to Mugabe’s most closely guarded secrets.
Many have broken ranks and publicly condemned their leader’s actions, an offence for which they paid with either their lives, or expulsion from the gravy train, or various other forms of public humiliation. That punishment has always been a warning sign to any war vet contemplating any form of revolt against Mugabe.
If truth be told, the war vets are seething with anger, and rightly so, but many do not have the nerve to make their feelings known. They would rather suffer in silence than incur the wrath of Mugabe and his henchmen, which is why Dongo branded them Mugabe’s wives.
They only flex their muscles, and very effectively at that, when it comes to cowing the vulnerable and defenceless members of the public. Things came to a head when Grace, seeing that Mugabe is fast approaching the end of his road, suddenly awoke to the reality that with Mugabe gone she will not enjoy the luxury that she is enjoying now.
Unable to trust anyone in the top leadership of ZanuPf because she has fallen out with virtually every one of them before, she settled on claiming the top job for herself despite the fact that all things being equal, that should be an impossible feat.
Knowing that with ZanuPf anything goes, and having succeeded in placing Mutable in her own leash, she threw caution to the wind and set her sights on the Presidency. Her preparation for acceptance as an eligible candidate included the unheard-of feat of completing a PhD in a mere three months, (curiously after hopelessly failing a degree in English Literature at a London University), instigating the expulsion of a large number of Zanu PF stalwarts on spurious accusations, denigrating war vets and promoting herself to powerful positions in the ruling party. Consensus in the entire country, including the ruling party, is that a government headed by Grace is untenable.
When the subject of Grace’s presidency was broached it was roundly condemned by the war vets and a war of attrition between Grace and Mugabe himself on one side and the war vets on the other ensued, claiming the scalps of party stalwarts including Jabulani Sibanda, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Temba Mliswa, Ray Kaukonde, Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya. Since then there has been a string of brawls, heated exchanges and indabas to try to quell the wrath of the former fighters.
There have also been and splits in the War Veterans Association as members have assumed irreconcilable positions. At one time the security forces used their usual heavy handed ways of dealing with dissent, subjecting the war vets to the indignity of being punished with water cannons. That had the opposite effect of widening the chasm between the war vets and the First Family.
The war vets were so incensed by the treatment they received that some of them began spilling the beans on Mugabe’s past, openly charging that he was hated from the time they were in the bush and was only accepted as leader thanks to the intervention of Samora Machel and some of the ZANLA leaders that he was now treating like hogwash.
So riled were some of them that they spoke of going to war against him and his wife. Refusing to be silenced, Grace unleashed a sustained attack on the war vets, accusing them of thinking that they were special, and Mugabe himself, in a public show of solidarity with his wife, threatened the war vets with another Gukurahundi, a bloody indiscriminate, killing spree like the one he perpetrated in response to ZIPRA uprisings in the eighties.
For that threat the war vets accused Mugabe of being a genocidal dictator, whom they would not support in the 2018 Presidential elections. Those sentiments sucked in the Head of the Zimbabwe National Army, General Constantine Chiwengwa, who ominously threatened unspecified action on the war vets criticising Mugabe.
Following Chiwenga’s threats, Christopher Mutsvangwa appeared to lose his nerve, making conciliatory remarks to the effect that the War Veterans’ association was solidly in support of Mugabe, but Victor Matemadanda, supported by other war vets, reportedly maintained his stance, arguing that Chiwenga had chosen to take an undemocratic route as people are entitled to their opinions. The War Veterans are now fluctuating between two extremes, unable to make up their minds about what they want.
They are behaving like the plebeians in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, who believed anything they heard from anyone on the integrity of Julius Caesar. Fear is certainly a central factor in the position they take. Perhaps Dongo was right after all in saying they are all Mugabe’s wives. Or is it now Grace’s wives? Fissures are developing in in the War Veterans Association, threatening further splits.
A new no-nonsense faction is emerging and is vowing to thwart a Mugabe dynasty, a group that Margaret Dongo would call real men. It remains to be seen how many are in this new group, who refuse to be bought with $50, which is what Matemadanda says is happening to those who are supporting Grace Mugabe’s bid to waltz into the State House not as First Lady, but as President. How many men will be left standing?