By Tafi Mhaka
As the debate on the planned July 31 demonstration rages, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) chairperson Chris Mutsvangwa is seething with anger.
Mutsvangwa has described the masses that want to demonstrate against endemic corruption, joblessness and hyperinflation as hired troublemakers and disloyal activists.
Today, the very people that have worked hard to make Zimbabwe what it is, stand accused of seeking to betray it.
Yet the construction workers earning US$16 a month, for example, aren’t particularly affiliated to any political agenda.
They are just ordinary people, hoping for better, struggling to survive.
Add to that the partisan operation of the state-owned media, and it’s clear that the people are not permitted to express alternative views publicly or seek support for new political ideas and leaders using publicly owned media.
Only the chosen few, like Mutsvangwa, have a voice at the Herald and ZBC.
But the war veterans don’t speak for Zimbabweans like me, and don’t have Zimbabwe’s best interests at heart.
Time and again, especially in 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2018, war veterans have worked against the dignity of establishing a peaceful and democratic nation.
They have, over the years, supported the Zanu-PF men and women long behind the plunder of Zimbabwe’s natural resources and meagre financial resources.
They have intimidated, beaten and killed MDC supporters, while actively smothering political and economic development.
And they have, unfortunately, destroyed Zimbabwe’s potential.
But our values, including the right and means to express dissent and contribute towards the establishment of a prosperous state, must be representative of every Zimbabwean.
That is the part the war veterans’ leadership miss: Zanu-PF doesn’t ‘own’ Zimbabwe, and they don’t represent Zimbabwe’s population.
The greatest Zimbabweans I have met have laboured and stood at street corners, fixing shoes and selling cigarettes, sweets and old clothes.
They have driven cars, buses and tractors to put food on the table.
They have grown vegetables at home, not as a gratifying hobby, but as a means to stave off hunger and economic hardship.
They have forgone basic essentials to send their children to school, frightened at the notion of bequeathing poverty to their loved ones.
And they have borne the lion’s share of the hard, backbreaking work, paid taxes dutifully and lived peaceful lives.
They have, in many ways, made Zimbabwe what it is, a land where the political elites and leading war veterans are an enormously wealthy, dishonest and entitled lot.
Instead of displaying gratitude for the economic sacrifices Zimbabweans have made towards their welfare, war veterans believe they have the right to castigate and criminalise the people aggrieved by desperation.
Instead of joining the march against corruption, the war veterans are promoting the problematic status quo.
Instead of mobilising support for clean governance, the war veterans are praising political mayhem.
Instead of uniting Zimbabweans, the war veterans are preaching hatred and division.
However, everyone has a right to voice his or her unhappiness with Zimbabwe’s extensive predicament.
So while the war veterans can sabotage the planned July 31 demonstration, they cannot silence the voice of the people.
Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based writer and commentator. His debut novel, Mutserendende: The African in Us, is scheduled for release in 2020. Follow him on @tafimhaka / tafi.mhaka