Thursday, 11 August 2016


Restless war veterans, who have been a key pillar of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in April 1980, have signalled that they may now be ready to embrace the country’s much-maligned opposition, after meeting with leaders of radical pressure group Tajamuka/Sesjikile last week.

Well-placed sources within Tajamuka/Sesjikile and the leadership of the former freedom fighters confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that they had “happily” met for lunch last week, even as both parties also attempted to dampen expectations by claiming that this had all been “unplanned”.

The meeting comes as Tajamuka/Sesjikile has filed a lawsuit at the Constitutional Court, seeking to have Mugabe removed from office on charges of gross human rights violations.
While analysts who spoke to the Daily News last night said there was “nothing amiss” in the two parties meeting, they agreed that it would have been “unthinkable” just a few weeks ago that war veterans could meet with people seeking to end Mugabe’s long rule.

A cagey Tajamuka/Sesjikile spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi, said the lunch they had with the war veterans was “no big deal”.

“We don’t choose whom we meet with, as long as they are agreeable to the idea that Mugabe must resign urgently and immediately to give our country a new impetus.
“And yes, we have unprecedented developments with Zanu PF which is splitting, and war veterans are finally playing their custodian role, and the opposition forces seeming to be coming together again as well.

“Importantly, we have the steady rise of citizens’ movements and voices such as Tajamuka and others coming through,” Mkwananzi told the Daily News.

Tajamuka, apart from filing a constitutional application seeking to have Mugabe leave office immediately, are also planning fresh mass protests beginning September, if the nonagenarian does not step down by the end of August.

Last month, Tajamuka and activist cleric Evan Mawarire jointly organised a successful stay-away which was heeded by thousands of struggling workers who shut down the country in protest at Zimbabwe’s deepening economic rot, that is widely blamed on Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Mugabe and Zanu PF were last month stung by the war veterans who issued a stinging communiqué in which they ended their long relationship with the nonagenarian that stretches back to the days of the country’s liberation struggle.

Tellingly, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA’) secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, who was among those arrested in the aftermath of their fallout with Mugabe, defended the lunch with Tajamuka yesterday.

“We met and we had lunch with Promise from Tajamuka. There was no plan to meet though but it was good that we met. We discussed as vana veZimbabwe (children of Zimbabwe). We do not have a problem with the likes of Promise. You only get to know these people when you get close to them and we also agree with what they are fighting for,” he said.

“Zimbabwe needs this coming together of different forces and generations to deal with Mugabe and Zanu PF’s errant rule,” said civic leader McDonald Lewanika.

“This convergence is of paramount importance and will bode well for those opposed to Mugabe and especially for the war vets who need to re-establish themselves as the champions of freedom and a just and equitable Zimbabwe, in the same altruistic fashion that made them take up arms at the risk of death.

“So it is a positive development and one hopes the vets do not look back or succumb to Zanu PF co-option as happened in the past,” he added.

Civic society leaders, opposition parties, the church and Tajamuka turned out in big numbers during the bail hearings of the leadership of war veterans, including Matemadanda and ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya — when they appeared in court recently over charges of undermining and insulting Mugabe.

Political watchers said the budding solidarity between war vets and the opposition was significant and showed a convergence of ideas among all citizens.

War veterans have been one of Mugabe and Zanu PF’s strongest pillars of support over the past five decades, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian in power in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.

But the ex-combatants served Mugabe with divorce papers last month after growing disillusioned with the country’s worsening rot.

Addressing a hastily-convened meeting of Zanu PF supporters at the ruling party’s Harare headquarters last month, Mugabe warned the disaffected war veterans that they would be dealt with severely, including through the use of extra-judicial suppression methods that his former liberation movement incorporated during the country’s independence war in the 1970s — such as incarcerating dissenters in inhuman dungeons where they were forced to live like caged rats.

After his address, police launched a crackdown against the war vets leadership and arrested five officials, including Matemadanda and Mahiya, both of whom are currently out on bail.

Matemadanda has also told the Daily News that his life may now be in danger as some people have been monitoring his movements, while some Zanu PF yobs have invaded his Karoi farm.

“My life is in danger; they have gone a gear up. They have deployed youths to my farm. I have made a police report but the police claim that they cannot remove the youths because they were told not to use force,” Matemadanda said.

Well-placed sources within the war veterans movement have also told the Daily News that preparations are already underway for a “one million-man march to show Mugabe that he cannot just wish us away and we have the capacity to mobilise”.

“We are going to organise a march that will show the world that we are the power of Zanu PF. We want to side with the people because they have suffered enough and are tired of what the leadership has been doing.

“Yes, we were part of the system for a long time but it is now time for us to stand with the people, just like everyone else we are suffering, our children are not going to work just like everyone else, so we are concerned too,” said a war veteran who asked not to be named. daily news


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