HARARE – A senior Zanu PF official yesterday described the make-or-break meeting between President Robert Mugabe and restless war veterans in Harare today, in their last-ditch attempt to keep the decades-old power alliance intact, as a “War of the Titans”.
The party bigwig, who claims to be “non-aligned” in Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, told the Daily News that his “prayer” was that sanity would prevail at the end of the day as he feared that the end of the party would be nigh if agreement on a number of issues was not reached.
“If the deepening fissures in the party are not managed now, this War of the Titans has the potential to really get nasty and get out of hand.
“My prayer is that sanity will prevail at the end of the day as both parties need each other. After all, this is not their fight (Mugabe and war veterans), this is a succession war to the death between Team Lacoste (Zanu PF faction rallying behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa) and the G40 (ambitious party Young Turks rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe),” the bigwig said.
In Greek mythology, the War of the Titans — also known as the Battle of the Titans, Battle of the Gods, or just the Titan War — refers to a series of savage battles involving Titans (an older generation of gods) fighting against the Olympians (a younger generation of gods and their allies).
The war, which was fought to decide which generation of gods would have domain over the Universe ended in victory for the Olympians.
Amid all this, the Daily News was told yesterday that Mugabe had barred war veterans who are not aligned to Zanu PF from attending today’s crunch meeting with former liberation war fighters.
This is despite earlier assurances by the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) that the meeting would be inclusive — featuring ministers, security chiefs and all liberation struggle stalwarts such as former Vice President Joice Mujuru, former Zipra intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa and former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
Sibanda and other prominent ex-combatants such as former army officer Kudzai Mbudzi, who are now operating outside of Zanu PF, were turned away when they sought to get accreditation for the meeting on Tuesday.
Mbudzi confirmed the development to the Daily News last night, saying although they too had hoped to get an opportunity to meet with Mugabe and air their grievances with him, they found out when they went to the accreditation centre that “they did not want anyone who is not Zanu PF even if they were war veterans”.
“I was frantically trying to get myself accredited but the provincial war veterans’ leadership, the majority of whom are Zanu PF functionaries, would have none of it. They said they only wanted 800 people from each province and that I was not part of that,” Mbudzi said.
Reports from Bulawayo said Sibanda had been “embarrassed by the vetting officials” when he tried to get his accreditation sorted out at Davies Hall, after having been invited by the Mutsvangwa faction of ZNLWVA, that is said to be backing Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential ambitions.
“There were two accreditation teams in Bulawayo, and the G40 comrades decided that Team Lacoste wanted to use Jabu in their strategy to confront and embarrass the president and that is why they refused him accreditation.
“He (Sibanda) kept hopping from one district to the other, searching his name on various district lists. He was eventually told that he would not be allowed in and he went away visibly frustrated,” a war veteran who allegedly witnessed the frantic efforts said.
The Daily News reported earlier this week that the stage was delicately set for a potentially explosive encounter that could radically reshape Zimbabwe’s turbulent political landscape when Mugabe meets the restless war veterans in Harare today, to try and iron out their deepening differences.
In a daring act of defiance on Sunday, war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa openly contradicted Mugabe saying they were “equal partners” in Zanu PF and that the ZNLWVA was not just an affiliate organisation of the ruling party as the nonagenarian said on Saturday, on his return from Japan.
Speaking in an interview with the newspaper then, the spokesperson of the Mnangagwa-aligned ZNLWVA formation, Douglas Mahiya, also said it was folly for anyone to think that former freedom fighters did not have a key role to play in Zanu PF.
“Just as you cannot separate Jesus from God, and cannot separate Jesus from the Holy Spirit, you cannot separate war veterans from Zanu PF. After all, we (war veterans) are the ones who introduced Zanu PF to the masses during the war of liberation.
“If someone wants to separate us from Zanu PF, I think it will be a betrayal of the liberation struggle,” Mahiya said as he unapologetically contradicted what Mugabe said at the weekend.
He said further that ex-combatants “are not supporters of Zanu PF but are members of the party”, and as such were not supposed to operate under the leadership of people they had taught politics.
“During our training as liberation fighters we were taught how to use the gun and also taught how to handle the masses in terms of politics. So you cannot say we must go under them while we are the ones who were educating them. War veterans have a big role to play in Zanu PF politics,” he added.
Prodded to comment further on the view that war veterans should play second fiddle to Zanu PF, Mahiya said this was a misunderstanding as each party needed the other, adding that one side could not dictate to the other on issues that had to do with how the party must be run.
“The issue is not about direction. As war veterans, we already have direction. However, the direction must not constantly be renewed because if you do so you will lose that direction.
“You cannot renew the direction that we had, the direction of fighting the colonial regime. We think that as war veterans we are taking the right direction. Now, it’s about how government functionality and programmes benefit the people that we fought for,” he said.
Mahiya also admitted openly that Zanu PF was “collapsing like a deck of cards” because of its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
“What we are experiencing is tantamount to total chaos in the country and total destruction of the party, and if we leave people destroying the party as war veterans we will be left with nothing at the end of the day.