WAR veterans have vowed to go down fighting, saying they were coalescing to come up with a “strategic response” to President Robert Mugabe’s public tongue lashing last Thursday, NewsDay has learnt.
Mugabe threatened to “crush” them for seeking to influence the ruling Zanu PF party’s succession matrix.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya told NewsDay yesterday that by Wednesday, the ex-freedom fighters would have come up with an appropriate response to Mugabe’s utterances where he labelled them dissidents.
“I am the spokesperson of the association and I speak what we would have agreed as an association and since our patron said something regarding our association, we are yet to meet and discuss,” he said.
“We are currently consulting each other and by Wednesday, we would have met and deliberated on the matters arising and have a response to the issues at hand.”
This came amid reports that the former freedom fighters were plotting to defy the ZNLWVA patron and continue their campaign for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over the reins of power after Mugabe.
Mugabe last week took the war veterans’ leadership to the ropes during his address to the Zanu PF central committee and national consultative assembly on Thursday and Friday respectively, accusing them of behaving like dissidents.
The Zanu PF leader threatened to crush defiant war veterans the same way he handled the dissidents’ menace in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces in the 1980s during the infamous Gukururahundi massacres, where a government-sanctioned North Korea-trained 5 Brigade military unit reportedly killed over 20 000 civilians.
The fallout between Mugabe and the ZNLWVA leadership reached a crescendo two weeks ago after war veterans’ chairperson and former minister Chris Mutsvangwa reportedly declared Mnangagwa as the Zanu PF leader’s sole successor.
According to leaked minutes of the alleged meeting held in Gweru, Mutsvangwa was said to have threatened bloodshed should Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Mugabe fail.
Part of the alleged meeting’s minutes read: “If anyone goes against VP (Mnangagwa), it is against the revolutionary cadres. He (Mutsvangwa) said if anyone derails the aim of succession, he or she will cause blood-shedding in the country (sic).”
But Mutsvangwa has distanced himself from the document, claiming it was concocted by Mnangagwa’s arch-rivals the G40 in order to portray the Vice-President as a power-hungry person.
The G40, which is frantically fighting to torpedo Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed 92-year-old Mugabe, is reportedly fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe .
The former freedom fighters have accused Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, reportedly a key G40 ally, of misrepresenting the alleged minutes to Mugabe as evidence of the alleged plot to prop up Mnangagwa.
The war veterans vowed to fight Mphoko for seeking to draw a wedge between themselves and Mugabe.
“It’s a war now and we will show G40 who we are . . . they can’t lie and get away with it easily. We know the intentions by Mphoko and his crooked friends, to create a war between war veterans and the President. That will not happen,” a war veteran, who declined to be named, said.
Yesterday, opposition parties attacked Mugabe for threatening to unleash “Gukurahundi” on the defiant war veterans.
“Such statements show how callous Mugabe is and how unrepentant he is about the Gukurahundi massacres, where he made a fake excuse feigning to regret and saying that it was a moment of madness,” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
He said such statements must not be taken lightly as they were threats of genocide, adding the African Union, Sadc and the International Criminal Court should keep their eyes open to avert such crisis.
MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said Mugabe’s utterances were shocking.
“At his old age, we expect him to be asking for forgiveness and exercising restraint and wisdom in his words and deeds, but he is giving the people of Zimbabwe the exact opposite. It is unfortunate that this sickening tirade from Mugabe has just taken away efforts and what little progress there was towards peace and reconciliation in the country a thousand steps backwards,” he said.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust said: “Such utterances have the potential of eroding the gains of the Unity Accord and inciting warring factions from within his party to resort to violence.”