By Takura Zhangazha*
Recent media reports in the last week indicate that President Mugabe continues to have key differences with one of his key pillars of support, the veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. He has accused them, in part at least, of seeking to function outside of their mandate within the ruling Zanu Pf party.
Especially where and when statements officially attributed to them indicated that they support one of the current vice presidents, Emerson Mnangagwa, as their chosen successor to their party's leadership.
The president also made what I consider to be regrettable references to that most tragic period of Zimbabwean post independence history that has now come to be commonly referred to as the Gukurahundi It was a period in which thousands of civilians in the southern parts of our country lost their lives in a civil war that remains officially unexplained.
The statements attributed to the president have not come out of thin air with regard to the factionalism that is within the ruling party. They occur against a backdrop in which the war veterans have had their current chairman removed not only from cabinet but also from any roles within the party. This after their demonstration was crushed by the police as well as after an indaba they had with their patron, Mugabe, who appears to not be on their side.
And its all about succession in the ruling party for sure. On that, the mainstream Zimbabwean and global media is correct. Even if they spin it a little bit. There, as is said in British parlance, no smoke without fire. From the dismissal of the former Vice President Mujuru through to that of their current chairperson, Chris Mutsvangwa from government, theirs’ remains a struggle for influence based on what they consider their historical contribution to the liberation struggle and by dint of the same, retention of key pillars of state power.
It is also a narrative that suits the interests of war veterans, particularly those that were part of the phase where and when the struggle became most militarized. This majority batch of comrades feel they have not been given enough recognition for what they consider their efforts in not only fighting for liberation but also for protecting and keeping the ruling party in power in post independent Zimbabwe.
Even if they were given the War Victims Compensation Fund which was to be riddled with allegations of corruption and cronyism, they still feel they have a stake in the politics of the country and in direct relation to the ruling party, its nationalist discourse and its claim to not only liberation struggle history but also its victory. This is despite the fact that they have varied definitions of what complete victory has meant and continues to mean.Or even what their roles in civilian politics should be.
What is important to note is that the war veterans are rallying together in order to follow their own understanding of sequential acquisition of power within a state they virulently claim to have finally established.
From a personal perspective, I am persuaded that they tend to exhibit a characteristic of entitlement to the state.
It is therefore least likely they will be open minded about succession in the ruling party. They have what can be considered as a sequential approach to leadership recognition or succession. They look at the history of their party and argue that it is now time for at least someone who was at the war-front to get closer to assuming political power. It is their historical expectation. By way of their own perceived and real sacrifices for the liberation of the country.
In this they were never going to be selfless. Even though it is few of their ilk that have benefited from state largesse. The greater majority still, even after the fast track land reform program do not have access to basic humanitarian needs let alone post war palliative care.
The only catch with the still living war veterans is that they are in no way desperate. Instead they appear determined and are intent on holding their own. They will fight, at least metaphorically, their own corner. And in so far as they have retained a continued control of levers of state security, a few ministries in government and the greater part of the ruling party’s political campaign machinery (by way of political cultural habit), they still seek to claim greater control. Especially if you place controversial electoral victories since 2000 into the equation.
The sad truth to it all is that their own nationalist and liberation struggle legacies may be lost in the midst of their cutthroat ambition for state power. It is their own sons and daughters, myself included, who will without a doubt ask more questions than they can democratically give answers. Moreso given the fact that democracy and the liberation struggle will always be historically intertwined. Even if they wanted to wish democracy away.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)