Which rat will put a bell on the cat?
IN the rich African folklore, a colourful story is told of how a community of rats, after seeing one after another of their own being savagely devoured by a marauding cat, called for an urgent meeting to map out a fool-proof survival strategy. Rats attended this indaba in their numbers because their lives were at stake.
At the meeting, the attendees were offered an opportunity to hazard suggestions on how best to deal with the cat threat. Of all suggestions that came up, one appealed to all — that a bell be tied around the neck of this cat so that the next time it tried to hunt, all rats would be alerted by the sound of the bell.
It was agreed that one of the rats would tiptoe to the always overfull cat when it was soundly sleeping and put a bell around its neck. The resolution was carried by a unanimous decision. Fine and dandy!
Then, as expected, the over-fed cat fell fast asleep. The rats called an urgent meeting to implement their resolution.
One after another, the rats invented alibis to escape the duty at hand, which was to tie a bell around the neck of the marauding cat. In the end, the otherwise brilliant plan became a graveyard of good intent, as no bell was ever put on the cat.
As the crunch meeting between war veterans and their patron, President Robert Mugabe, draws near, questions are being raised as to whether the livid members of the country’s war veterans community — whose contribution to the liberation of the country, and the war itself — are increasing being disparaged, would be able to stand up and demand that President Mugabe puts in place a definite succession plan and thereby putting to rest the feral factional wars that are threatening the future of the ruling party and the country as well.
The billion-dollar question is who among them would summon their wartime bravery to demand that the veteran leader leaves no one to guess as to who his preferred successor could be?
Analysts doubt that this meeting — which is scheduled for April 7 — would make any meaningful difference given that delegates are being hand-picked, and the agenda has already been set, never mind what Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, who is also the ZANU-PF Politburo secretary for War Veterans Affairs, has been promising.
Sekeramayi has promised that this would be a no-holds-barred indaba where war veterans would be free to voice their grievances.
However, from indication on the ground, the preparatory meetings for this upcoming indaba have seen most war veterans who have disagreed with the way things have been done in the ruling party being conspicuously excluded.
The criterion to decide who will be attending the crunch indaba is also something that leaves a lot to be desired.
There are hordes of quintessential liberation war fighters who have, in their frustration, broken ranks with the ruling ZANU-PF party, and some of these include highly respected war time commanders Bernard Manyadza (Parker Chipoyera), Chrispen Mataire (David Thondlana), Kudzai Mbudzi and Agrippa Mutambara (Dragon Tiripakashata) who recently quit his ambassadorial post to join the opposition, who have not been invited.
Many leading lights at the newly formed Zimbabwe People First party, including its founders, Joice Mujuru, Rugare Gumbo (the only surviving member of the Dare reChimurenga (Liberation War Council), Didymus Mutasa, among others, are all genuine war veterans whose invitation to this meeting is still doubtful.
Even former chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Jabulani Sibanda, was this week quoted in the media as saying he was not invited to the forthcoming meeting.
The same applies to war veterans who are members of other opposition parties, including the various formations of the Movement for Democratic Change.
What makes the meeting appear watered down is that it comes more than seven weeks after a group of angry war veterans had been treated to a shock baptism of fire after they tried to air their grievances at developments in the ruling ZANU-PF party.
On February 18, a group of angry war veterans mobilised by the then war veterans minister, Christopher Mutsvangwa, tried to gather in Harare, but the meeting ended prematurely after riot police descended heavily on them with tear-gars and water cannons.
Shortly after, President Mugabe was forced to call a press conference where he excoriated Mutsvangwa before later dismissing him from his ministerial post and replacing him with his former deputy, Tshinga Dube.
It was after that fracas that President Mugabe called for a meeting with the members of the ZNLWVA.
Wilbert Sadomba, a war veteran, author and a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe this week told the Financial Gazette that he does not expect much to come out of the watered down indaba, from just observing the composition of those being invited and the agenda already set.
“It is very difficult to tell what the outcome of the meeting could be, but what is clear here is that the war veterans are not happy with the way things are going in the ruling party. Both sides (in ZANU-PF) are plotting against each other and one thing that is very clear is that there is a plan to divert most of the war veterans from the matter at hand — that of the future leadership of the party — by bringing to the fore issues to do with their welfare.
“The war veterans did not gather in Harare at that meeting that was dispersed by tear gas and water cannons to discuss welfare issues, but something more important. I would want to believe that most war veterans are keenly aware of this diversionary strategy, but what will come out of the meeting is yet to be seen,” Sadomba said.
Reason Wafawarova, a former commander at the National Youth Service programme, who is now based in Australia, pointed out that the fact that the agenda of the upcoming meeting appears to be restricted to welfare issues raises eyebrows.
“Let it be known here and now that war veterans are not waiting for a meeting whose agenda is limited to school fees and welfare for their families and children.
“In any case most of the war veterans have adult children out of school anyway. The meeting that was illegally disrupted by the ZRP on February 18 was never about war veterans’ welfare issues. This was a crucial meeting in defence of ZANU-PF … the party so mandated by the freedom fighters to be the custodian of the national revolution,” Wafawarova said.
“If President Mugabe is going to meet the war veterans as is scheduled for the first week of April, let it be known here and now that war veterans are coming to that meeting to defend ZANU-PF, to reclaim the party from those that have hijacked it.”
It is yet to be seen whether the section of the war veteran arm of the ruling ZANU-PF would be able to get a chance to present their demand.
Previously, the trick by war veterans was to make sure that their leader was an ex-ZIPRA cadre, as this ensured that he would not be bound by war-time loyalties, which move saw the late Chenjerai Hunzvi being thrust into the post.
It was through Hunzvi that the war veterans successful arm-twisted President Mugabe to give them gratuities of ZW$50 000 among other benefits in 1997.
After Hunzvi’s death in 2001, the leadership of the ZNLWVA has been trusted with individuals whose loyalty to the ruling ZANU-PF party is not subject to debate, which makes Mutsvangwa’s continued stay in his position as the chairman of war veterans doubtful.
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