Wednesday, 20 April 2016

MUJURU ESTABLISHES FREEDOM FIGHTERS UNIT

The Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) led by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru has begun a process of setting up a structure of former liberation war fighters within its structures.
 
The move, which is in line with Mujuru’s party constitution, comes hard on the heels of another opposition party, Zapu, led by former Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa, setting up its own war veterans body to rival the one aligned to the ruling Zanu PF.

War veterans have, particularly since the turn of the century, been used as political storm-troopers along with traditional leaders by President Robert Mugabe to cow ordinary Zimbabweans into supporting his Zanu PF during elections.

ZimPF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told NewsDay yesterday that his party’s unit of the former liberation war fighters would be called “Freedom Fighters”.

“We will call them Freedom Fighters and they will not be an affiliate. They are a structure of the party just like the main wing, youth league and women’s league. We are working with the likes of Jabulani Sibanda and others to set up the structure,” he said.

Gumbo is a stalwart of Zimbabwe’s bush war that brought majority rule along with Mujuru, former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, while Sibanda is the immediate past chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), a Zanu PF affiliate.

These and other senior ZimPF leaders were kicked out of Zanu PF in the run-up to and aftermath of the December 2014 congress on a litany of charges including outright treason, but have never been charged.

Sibanda spent almost five years prior to the 2013 harmonised elections “drumming up support” for Zanu PF, but critics claim he used all manner of tactics including violence, threats of war and coercion to force villagers into voting for the ruling party. He has denied claims that he used underhand tactics against villagers especially in Masvingo, Manicaland and Mashonaland West provinces.

Sibanda confirmed ZimPF would have a structure of war veterans within its ranks.
“It is true we are working on that and unlike in other parties we will not be an affiliate, but a structure just like other organs of the party. But we are still working on the modalities. There is still work to be done and an appropriate time will come when we will make the structure public, but it is according to our constitution that we have such a structure,” Sibanda said.

A war veterans structure in favour of Mujuru will create an interesting scenario for the electoral battle in 2018, given Mugabe’s recent problems with the former fighters in his camp who have openly supported Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the on-going battle for succession.

Led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, the ZNLWVA has taken Mugabe head-on demanding the removal of Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, reportedly a key figure in a faction opposed to Mnangagwa’s ascendancy known as G40.

G40 is reportedly pushing for First Lady Grace to take over from the 92-year-old veteran Zanu PF leader, and Mugabe has hardly hidden his support for the group’s cause in the bruising fight.

With Mugabe having described the war veterans’ body as an “affiliate” of the ruling party, Mutsvangwa and his colleagues hit back, telling Mugabe “we are stockholders of Zanu PF and created this party. It is our party”. newsday

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