PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will have to do more if he is to gain the confidence of war veterans and win their support in what is likely to be his last stab at being elected Zimbabwe’s leader.
Mugabe (92), has already been declared Zanu PF’s candidate in the 2018 elections. He will be 94 and indications are that he may not get support from war veterans despite an apparent thawing of relations.
Mugabe and the former freedom fighters, under the banner of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, have been at each other’s throats for the better part of this year.
Quizzed by journalists if the war veterans would endorse Mugabe’s candidature, Mutsvangwa told a Press conference on Monday: “It is not our position to say whether he should stand as the party’s candidate. We were expelled from the party and you would rather enquire with those still in it.
“But I must say that (late former Cuban leader) Fidel Castro died at 90 and had handed over power to a younger person for some years now.”
Matters came to a head in July after the war veterans issued a communiqué haranguing Mugabe for capturing Zanu PF and manipulating the former liberation movement in order to stay in power. The former freedom fighters also demanded that Mugabe passes on the baton.
“If he announces his retirement date, the economy will improve because there is nobody who will invest his money where the future is uncertain. Nobody will lend money to a 92-year-old and if he does not step aside, 2018 will be the most difficult year to campaign for us, as war veterans,” the communiqué read.
Mutsvangwa refused to promise Mugabe the support of the former freedom fighters.
“You can make your deductions from what I have said,” the former Cabinet minister said amid laughter.
Asked on his views regarding Zanu PF’s contentious “one centre of power principle”, Mutsvangwa retorted: “When we went to war, we fought for democracy and constitutionalism. While it is important to consolidate power, we must also understand that diversity of views in leadership is essential.”
Mugabe has watched helplessly as senior leaders in Zanu PF engage in a bitter war for control of the former liberation movement, amid the emergence of two distinct camps, with one openly rooting for his wife First Lady Grace Mugabe to take over.
The war veterans have thrown their weight behind a rival faction reportedly fronted by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mutsvangwa reminded Mugabe that the wartime guerilla leader owed his rise to power and popularity to the former freedom fighters.
“It was us, who sat and made sure Mugabe becomes the leader that he is. We sold his name to the masses across the length and breadth of this country. The freedom fighters sold his name in every village, not the party, because there were no structures to talk about,” he said.
“We respect President Mugabe as a revolutionary, but in revolutionary parlance there are no superior and inferior individuals. We are all equal and we all earned our place at the top table through individual contributions.”
Mutsvangwa said that the war veterans had accepted the reality that Zimbabwe was a multi-party democracy and now had “good relations even with opposition parties”. Newsday