WAR veterans’ leaders are reportedly on high alert and have scaled up their security following President Robert Mugabe’s recent threats to crush them for seeking to dictate who should succeed him, NewsDay has learnt.
While most have chosen to remain tight-lipped and diplomatic, it has emerged that the former freedom fighters believe that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa could also be a target of zealots if Mugabe pushes ahead with his unspecified threats.
Impeccable sources this week said Mnangagwa, presently ensnared in an internal Zanu PF struggle for power with a group of Young Turks known as G40, could be a prime target of fanatics.
“There is genuine fear that ED (Mnangagwa) and (War veterans’ chairman, Christopher) Mutsvangwa’s lives are in danger. Given the fact that it was the President, the most powerful man in the country, who described people as dissidents and you tie this to history, then you can understand where we are coming from,” an executive member of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), who declined to be named, said.
“The other people whose lives could be in danger are (ZNLWVA) spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya and secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, but those would be second thought from what we understand. They are scared stiff, but will not say it publicly.”
But yesterday Mutsvangwa was quick to dismiss the insecurity fears.
“HE (Mugabe) revisited and revised that sensationalisation on the following day, as he addressed the national consultative assembly. I am still touched by the humility of HE in the apology he proffered when war veterans were manhandled and water cannoned earlier this year,” he said.
“That is testimony to our shared background of sacrifice with the State President in the dark hour of the freedom struggle. VP Mnangagwa further squelched any unfounded concerns by MDC deputies in the debate in Parliament last week.”
Matemadanda and Mahiya declined to comment on the matter. In response to questions from opposition backbenchers, Mnangagwa claimed Mugabe “said no such thing”, after he was asked whether it was government policy that the President crushed anyone who dared challenge him.
“We have an umbilical attachment with State machinery of the new Zimbabwe, the means of coercive enforcement. We, therefore, can never ever be brought to fear our own,” Mutsvangwa said.
An angry Mugabe addressing his party’s central committee two weeks ago, in the wake of discussions about his succession by the former freedom fighters, warned he would crush those pushing for his heir, as the war veterans openly backed Mnangagwa.
“I say no to the war veterans’ association that does not know its mandate. It is not your function to talk of who should succeed the President or, worse still, threaten that unless what you want is fulfilled, there shall be bloodshed,” Mugabe thundered.
“That will not be allowed and steps will be taken against them. Dissidents tried it and you know what happened.”
In the early to mid-80s Mugabe unleashed the North Korean trained 5 Brigade on parts of the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces under the pretext of hunting down a handful of dissidents reportedly linked to then opposition leader Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu party.
What followed was an orgy of violence that left an estimated 20 000 civilians dead and tens of thousands displaced.
Before the crackdown, commonly known as Gukurahundi, which Mugabe later described as a “moment of madness” he had described Nkomo as “the father of dissidents”, characterising the former Zapu leader as a “snake whose head must be crushed”.
Zanu PF national commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere referred questions to Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo. newsday