New twist to war veterans indaba
A CRISIS meeting for liberation war veterans in Harare today has taken an intriguing twist after it emerged that the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has lost control of its preparation to Tshinga Dube, who heads the War Veterans Ministry.
The Financial Gazette can reveal that ZNLWVA will not be in charge of today’s proceedings. Tellingly, the association’s chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa will only give welcome remarks and would take no further part in the meeting.
ZANU-PF insiders said ZNLWVA’s national executive has been whipped into line so as not to embarrass the country’s leadership which will turn up for the meeting, including their patron, President Robert Mugabe.
To avoid any surprises, the Ministry of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Political Detainees and Restrictees, formerly led by Mutsvangwa before his suspension from the party last month, has been thrust in control of the proceedings.
Mutsvangwa was replaced by Dube, who had been his deputy. Dube is not a member of the association and war veterans had previously refused to recognise him.
What that means is that ZNLWVA has been reduced to a mere participant at the event and will have no significant contribution to its outcome.
Dube said yesterday there was nothing amiss about his ministry’s involvement, saying it was all meant to facilitate a smooth and well planned meeting.
“Once the President became part of the meeting, it became our responsibility to organise it. We have been working daily to put things in order.
“They (war veterans) are used to miserable conditions where they would come and spend nights in the open or bother relatives for food and a place to sleep at night. But we are doing things differently this time. We do not want them to suffer.
“We have asked for a budget for the meeting and all things have been put in place. I do not see why anyone should be complaining. The President wanted things to be orderly,” Dube said.
Events playing out in ZNLWVA are being seen through the lenses of factional politics rattling the ruling party. The association’s leadership had pitched its political tent in the ZANU-PF faction aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which is battling for control of the political party against the other faction going by the moniker Generation 40.
In his address to party supporters soon after touching down at the Harare International Airport from Japan on Sunday, President Mugabe made it clear that he would not take orders from the association and was ready to sever ties with his wartime comrades if they behaved like rogues.
He said there was no way he would allow the association to take control of the party, and that ZNLWVA was just like any other charitable association.
The Financial Gazette tracked down some senior members of the association this week, who all spoke reluctantly and did not even want to be identified.
Prior to Sunday, the senior ex-fighters had been more than willing to grant interviews.
The three who entertained the Financial Gazette on condition of anonymity made it clear that they were not even aware of the programme for today’s meeting.
They said the programme did not have the same agenda as the meeting foiled by police early last month when they were tear-gassed, beaten and had water cannons used on them.
Another high-ranking member of the association said they were worried by the fact that the meeting was now beyond their control.
He said there was a feeling within the association that the intention of the meeting was to get rid of Mutsvangwa.
“It is not the Ministry which called for the meeting. We had planned it ourselves and we wanted to invite the President, but we were tear-gassed away from the venue. Now there is this strange scenario whereby we are being invited to a meeting which we were supposed to convene ourselves,” he said, indicating that their patron was supposed to come and listen to their grievances.
“This thing should be historic because he (President Mugabe) is meeting us for the first time, 36 years after independence, but we are playing second fiddle to some forces. After all, we cannot say we are meeting – only 10 000 people have been invited,” he said.
Neither ZNLWVA secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, nor the association’s spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, were willing to talk to the Financial Gazette.
“I can only talk to you after the meeting has ended. At the moment, I’m not at liberty to say anything,” said Matemadanda.
Mahiya said: “I have decided not to comment on these issues until after the meeting. Thank you.”
Mahiya was the last of the association’s leadership to talk to the press when he said on Monday that President Mugabe’s notion that ZNLWVA was just an affiliate of ZANU-PF with no power to influence the course of events in the party was flawed.
Mahiya said war veterans were the founders and parents of the party and so had every right to be involved in its business.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette