The Zanu (PF) war veterans’ movement has been rocked by sharp divisions as one group is reportedly insisting that former Vice President Joice Mujuru and other senior members must return to stabilise the party.
Party insiders, some of them veterans of the war against colonialism, told The Zimbabwean the differences were so sharp they could cause a crisis in the leadership of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).
“There is a silent war among the war veterans. One group is arguing that Mujuru and other comrades must be taken back. They insist that no sin is too big and some of them have actually been in contact with senior members of the People First movement to try and persuade them to ask for forgiveness and return. They think that Mujuru must be allowed back,” said a party member and ex-freedom fighter.
Mujuru was expelled alongside other former party heavyweights Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Nicholas Goche, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Ray Kaukonde for allegedly attempting to topple Mugabe.
The group has since formed a loose outfit called People First that Gumbo, its spokesperson, says will transform into a political party in due course. Mujuru recently launched a manifesto that is seen as a precursor to the formation of the party that it is widely believed she will lead.
Forgive and forget
Former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda said war veterans who remained in Zanu (PF) were constantly in touch with the PF leadership to in attempt to get them back.
“These comrades are always phoning or visiting us. I see their point but we have a problem with their thinking. They are begging us to forgive and forget yet they are not doing anything about the rot in the party’ highest levels of leadership – true revolutionaries must act against a rotten leadership,” he said.
The group of war veterans who want Mujuru back is not refuting the allegations against her, said the sources, but is arguing that the party is better off with them in the fold than outside.
“Punishment of party leaders is not new to Zanu (PF). A lot of people have been thrown into wilderness only to come back at a later, so it is not too late for Mai Mujuru and others to bounce back.
“You will recall that the likes of Didymus Mutasa, Webster Shamu, Rugare Gumbo and others spent many years in the cold and when we had written them off. They re-emerged. They can still do the same thing, and that applies to Mai Mujuru too,” said the war veteran.
This camp of ex-fighters is uncomfortable with Mujuru working together with Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T as they reportedly still regard him as a sell-out who has been working with western powers to effect regime change.
“They are not happy because they feel that working with Tsvangirai contradicts the revolutionary values that the likes of Mujuru and others stand for after fighting for our independence and leading the party for so long,” said another source.
Tsvangirai recently welcomed Mujuru’s manifesto, saying her choice to join opposition politics would help bring about democracy. The People First (PF) movement has also indicated its readiness to work with Tsvangirai and other opposition parties.
Besides reaching out to Mujuru, Mutasa and other prominent former party leaders, the camp is reportedly wooing other members of PF.
Those angling for Mujuru’s return argue that her expulsion left a leadership void as Mnangagwa has not been widely accepted as Mugabe’s successor and there are no natural replacements. A rival war veterans’ camp is said to be fiercely against the readmission of Mujuru and her loyalists.
This camp is reportedly largely linked to Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mujuru’s bitter rival who replaced her at the Zanu (PF) congress in December last year and is taking orders from the minister in charge of the ex-combatants, Christopher Mutsvangwa.
“These comrades are adamant that Mujuru must never return because she tried to remove the president un-procedurally and is a friend of the enemy (Tsvangirai and western governments),” said another war veteran.
Senior PF members have ruled out going back to Zanu (PF).
Unite the people
Sibanda defended the PF alliance with Tsvangirai and MDC-T. “As People First, our mandate is to unite the people of Zimbabwe, no matter who they are. We will be working with all the other political parties to ensure that this country goes back to the founding values of freedom and justice.
“If you walk into Zanu (PF), these values are now non-existent. We might have had problems with Tsvangirai in the past, but we are prepared to give him a chance as we are of the opinion that people change with time. We can’t judge him on the basis of history,” said Sibanda.
Mutsvangwa said he was not aware of the divisions with the war veterans’ movement. “Who are those people who are calling for Mujuru’s return? I don’t know them so I cannot comment on their views or actions,” he said.