Tafi Mhaka: Douglas Mahiya and Zanu-PF ‘war vets’ don’t own Zimbabwe
By Tafi Mhaka
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya’s had a busy year attempting to depict Zanu-PF ineptitude as the express result of economic sanctions imposed by western powers. Worryingly, Mahiya is threatening to go to war against the MDC Alliance and “whites”, as they are allegedly responsible for wrecking Zimbabwe’s economy.
Yet, back in 1997, when war veterans took to the streets to demand the government improve their living conditions and pay substantial gratuities for participating in the 1970s war of independence, they actually understood who was responsible for their abject poverty: Zanu-PF’s leadership.
Many ‘war vets’ were tremendously poor, landless, uneducated and jobless. Many suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorders, and many had been rendered financially illiterate, unskilled, unemployable and most vulnerable to cheap political manipulation by an under-resourced, badly planned and poorly implemented post-independence demobilisation programme.
Yet, in 1998, barely a year after startling, embarrassing revelations revealing that cabinet ministers had looted a US$22.5 million war veterans compensation fund emerged, barely months after the government had ceded to their considerable financial demands, ZNLWVA-aligned war veterans had developed acute amnesia over Zanu-PF’s massive betrayal.
By March 1998, the war veterans, led by Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi, were intimidating striking ZCTU-affiliated workers during a mass stayaway led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda. And, by 2008, in the run up to a violent, heavily-disputed presidential election, the “patriotic” war veterans were virtually at war against the MDC, NGOs, white farmers, white industrialists, trade unions and any individual deemed anti-Zanu-PF, mildly progressive or independent-minded.
Sadly, last week Mahiya, rather unapologetically, repeated Hunzvi’s divisive, racist mantra, claiming the “whites”, and a presumably untrustworthy MDC Alliance, were at it again, trying to destabilise an industrious, well-meaning Zanu-PF government.
However, should they opt for war, who would Mahiya’s war veterans do battle against this time around? The frustrated, jobless youths who reside in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru’s townships? The underprivileged, socially distressed women who can’t afford to buy sanitary pads for themselves? The 2.3 million starving villagers awaiting USAID-funded WFP food rations? The female comedians, trade unionists and human rights activists staging fake abductions?
It’s a crying shame that the ZNLWVA leadership has betrayed us and trashed the democracy our ancestors shed blood for. Indeed, they have sullied Josiah Tongogara’s legacy and solidified the irrepressible impression that Zimbabwe is doomed to become an emblematic, third world African country where nothing will ever work, all for want of absolute power by an entitled military complex.
Just look at us: some 39 years after independence, our proud, wealthy and vocal “leaders” are still rambling about devious “whites”, and a dark, fantastical plot to sink a stumbling Zanu-PF. Never mind the unemployed masses, underpaid teachers, doctors and nurses desperate to enjoy decent lives. Never mind the disconcerting, money-gobbling troubles at ZESA, Air Zimbabwe and NSSA.
The utmost fear, in the hallways of power, is a cryptic regime change agenda organised by “whites”? Really? While multiparty democracy seemingly matters, fairly mundane observations on, and disagreements with, largely discredited, failed Zanu-PF policies are branded ‘imperialist’, ‘subversive’ and ‘dangerous’. And while elections may be held regularly, Mahiya’s war veterans do emphasise that Zimbabweans can’t afford to vote Zanu-PF out of power, not without risking a civil war.
Granted, many might regard Mahiya’s repeated, combative public threats as the mindless ranting of a nasty, bitter old man. That he very well may be, but Mahiya sits on Zanu-PF’s politburo, an influential body that retains astoundingly strong ties to the military.
Besides, it’s hard to envisage that Mahiya represents no plausible constituency outside of the war veterans; especially as ZANU PF Youth League boss Pupurai Togarepi last week labelled the MDC Alliance a ‘terrorist group’. Distressingly, the last time leading Zanu-PF actors identified, and dealt with, ‘rebels’, in Matabeleland and Midlands, thousands of unarmed, peaceful villagers died.
Needless to say, I’m afraid many Zanu-PF youths and war veterans, as well as MDC Alliance youths, gutted by extreme, undignified poverty, might fall for this warmongering. Mahiya’s aggression, undeniably, runs the inflammatory risk of affirming that Zimbabwe is really only for people who not only look, but also think like him.
That, nevertheless, is far from our undying, unassailable truth. I, and millions of people who don’t support Zanu-PF, have equal right to determine our futures. Indeed, we will fight for Zimbabwe’s wellbeing on every possible front, unrelentingly, till the very end.