ZANU PF opponents and observers have expressed disappointment with the war veterans who, they claim, failed to pin down President Robert Mugabe last Thursday by demanding he steps down.
War veterans converted their much-hyped meeting with the veteran leader into a begging stampede, bombarding him with a wish list which centred on their needs.
After President Mugabe had seemingly staved off further dissent against his controversial rule from the opposition, much was expected from the country’s once fearless liberators to confront and remind him of the ideals of independence.
Instead, they took turns to ask for government positions, material privileges and access to wealth generating instructions, among issues that dominated their wish list.
The meeting was also reduced into a Zanu PF rally when the ruling party’s slogans were chanted throughout, accompanied with the party’s trademark fist waving gesture of triumph.
War veterans are reportedly fed up with President Mugabe’s failure to rein in a group of ambitious party loyalists who have seized control of Zanu PF at the expense of a rival camp led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
President Mugabe panicked in February this year when the now dismissed War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa convened an ad hoc meeting which was widely presumed in power corridors as planning his ouster.
After telling a Bindura rally last month he would retire if asked to by his war peers, Mugabe spent some anguished weeks leading up to the meeting.
Despite a show of bravado often accompanied by threats against some defiant war veterans, it was apparent Mugabe felt anguished as days of the meeting drew closer.
The war veterans were seemingly unmoved by their patron’s rants.
MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi felt the war veterans could have done the nation a favour by asking Mugabe to resign.
“This is a squandered opportunity to correctly and sincerely advise Mugabe to step down,” Chihwayi told NewZimbabwe.com last Friday.
“There was nothing for the economy and nothing for the suffering nation.
“War veterans betrayed the nation by boot-licking Mugabe for their own welfare, forgetting to save the country that they liberated.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu also described the meeting as “much ado about nothing”, adding that the war veterans were outfoxed by Mugabe.
“Nothing tangible came out of Mugabe’s meeting. For now, the veterans will have to accept that whatever Mugabe wants is what will happen,” he said.
“Up until such a time that the war veterans are bold enough to openly call upon President Mugabe to step down on account of his advanced age and failure to stop the haemorrhaging of the national economy, the status quo shall prevail.”
Compromised by poverty and old age
Gutu said it was apparent the real solution to the country’s man made crisis was for the all opposition parties to close ranks and escalate the push for electoral reforms.
“As the MDC, we respect genuine war veterans and salute them for their heroism and bravery,” he said.
“However, it is incumbent upon us as democratic forces to mount a very serious and unrelenting push for electoral reforms to be put in place before the next elections are held.”
Political analyst Jacob Rukweza said the war vets owe it to the nation to defend the independence and freedom they fought for.
“They have the obligation as former freedom fighters to protect their own legacies and the legacy of the war of liberation,” he said.
“In that regard, if Mugabe becomes a threat to the independence and freedom of the country and its citizens, they are obliged to stand up against him in defence of the people’s freedom and independence.
“They owe it to the country and to history and to posterity.”
Rukweza said he never expected anything tangible to emerge out of the meeting.
“It was a micro managed affair with government and not the war veterans’ association in charge.
“The war veterans were also divided along factional lines and they are compromised by poverty and old age.”
A Harare based political analyst who preferred not to be named on professional grounds felt it was within war veterans’ rights to limit their demands to welfare issues.
“It was their meeting. They were bound to talk about their specific interests,” he said.
Instead of a platform to seek solutions to the current Zanu PF infighting, the meeting could also be construed as a show of force by Mnangagwa and his allies.
This, he said, would soon be countered if the rival Generation 40 proceeds to call for a one million youth march suggested last month.
Masimba Kuchera, another Harare based analyst felt it was ever going to be difficult for the war vets to air all their grievances given earlier threats by President Mugabe, coupled with intimidation by state security.
- New Zimbabwe