FIREBRAND war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa will today preside over a crucial meeting of the former freedom fighters in Masvingo that could change the country’s political landscape amid speculation that President Robert Mugabe may be dumped as patron of the ex-freedom fighters.
Insiders told NewsDay that today’s meeting could result in a complete break in the relationship between Mugabe and the war veterans grouping.
“This is it. The die has been cast and Mugabe’s relationship with war veterans could be over by end of day tomorrow (today),” a source said.
“There is growing anger and agitation to have Mugabe removed as patron. It’s not clear if Mutsvangwa has the stomach to push it through though.”
The former freedom fighters’ relationship with Mugabe is at an all-time low, following a damning communiqué they allegedly issued in July questioning the 92-year-old leader’s credentials.
While Mugabe has descended heavily on the leadership of the former freedom fighters by rounding up senior members in the aftermath of the communiqué, Mutsvangwa has remained steadfast.
Zimbabwe National War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya confirmed the meeting, but declined to comment on Mugabe’s position.
“War veterans are converging in Masvingo to reassert their position politically and economically,” he said.
“Politically in the sense that our leadership remains as elected under Mutsvangwa and economically because we would want to ensure that our society has been liberated from the economic repression as a result of anti-people policies.
“The issue of who is the patron remains a preserve of our membership.”
Mugabe this week unveiled 13 vehicles be used by the War Veterans ministry, but Mahiya described this as a case of misplaced priorities.
“Instead of buying cars, the President should have made sure the money used to buy cars is channelled to outstanding school fees for our children. There is no money to bury our dying members. To us, this is a clear example of misplaced priorities,” he said.
Mahiya accused permanent secretary Walter Tapfumaneyi of being responsible for the problems rocking the war veterans, demanding that the Public Service Commission redeploy him.
“The President might have acted on the recommendations of a misguided permanent secretary, but surely we would have thought that he, as a war veteran, would have been better placed to use sound judgment,” he said.
“We are also going to have a relook at our constitution so that it gives us political space that we fought for and never be described as a mere association like other social groupings.”
Today’s meeting will be attended by district, provincial and national structures.
Mutsvangwa was fired from Cabinet and Zanu PF early this year, while senior members of his executive await trial for their alleged role in the stinging July communiqué.
The war veterans have been caught in the centre of the Zanu PF succession storm, where they have thrown their weight behind Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
A meeting to mend relations between the war vets and the Zanu PF leader last April failed to resolved the stalemate, with the former freedom fighters claiming the indaba had been hijacked by sections of the country’s security establishment.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene then claimed to have engineered a vote of no confidence in Mutsvanga’s executive, but her faction is struggling for acceptance and recognition. newsday