HomeNewsTHE BIG INTERVIEW: Mugabe probes war vets ‘plot’

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Mugabe probes war vets ‘plot’

One of the reasons President Robert Mugabe is still in power 36 years after taking over from Ian Smith is because of the mobilising force he enjoys from liberation war veterans.

THE BIG INTERVIEW

At the turn of the millennium, the former fighters saved Mugabe from certain defeat by the Movement for Democratic Change and in subsequent polls, the war veterans even resorted to murder to keep the 92-year-old leader in power.

However, as Mugabe seems determined to consolidate his life-presidency, the war veterans are growing increasingly uncomfortable with his refusal to pass on the baton to their preferred candidate, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe was recently presented with a document allegedly authored by the former fighters titled, The Blue Ocean —Taking Back Zanu PF, detailing how they planned to outmanoeuvre the G40, a faction in Zanu PF linked to First Lady Grace Mugabe, and secure a Mnangagwa presidency.

A fortnight ago, Mugabe came out guns blazing, threatening to treat the dissenting war veterans the same way he treated dissidents in the mid-80s when he deployed the Fifth Brigade to Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, leading to the death of over 20 000 civilians. The threats showed Mugabe’s relationship with the former fighters was no longer the same.

Our senior reporter Xolisani Ncube (XN) spoke to War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube (TD) on the developments. Below are excerpts of the interview.

XN: In the past weeks we have seen Mugabe coming out strongly against war veterans and their activities. As the minister responsible for this unit, what is really the problem with your constituency?

TD: Well, as you might be aware, I am the minister for war veterans, even those who are not active members of Zanu PF or the Chris Mutsvangwa-led association. I am the minister responsible for everyone who participated in the liberation struggle and those who supported it, so I don’t just represent one association but all war veterans.

Now you are asking about the problems that you are witnessing and writing about, those are a few war veterans who are doing things they must not do.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association was formed by Zanu PF and is supposed to be under Zanu PF.

It must be getting orders from Zanu PF, not the other way round. When war veterans have a problem against any Zanu PF member, they must use the party, not the association, to air their grievances, not what we are witnessing in some cases.

Personally, as their minister, what they are doing is worrisome and very bad for the war veterans in general and the party in particular.

As the ministry, we want to work with a united team which speaks to the empowerment and well-being of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence of this country.

XN: How are you dealing with fights and conflicts within the war veterans structures?

TD: Right now I am in Mutare where I will be addressing these war veterans today (Friday). My message has been one and it’s very clear, let’s unite and focus on strengthening our association.

Let’s focus on what unites us than what divides us. This is the very message which I also tell those in the war veterans leadership. I tell them every time we meet. I hope they listen and do what’s right for the benefit of the association.

XN: We have read reports of a strategic document called Blue Ocean — Taking Back Zanu PF allegedly authored by war veterans, what is your response to it?
TD: I just saw the document but what is critical is that the war veterans have rejected having authored it. So, we are investigating who could have authored it and what the motive is.

It’s a very serious document raising serious issues and we can’t just stand without interrogating who authored it and establish the motive. The presidency, I hear, is investigating it as well. Until we know the author, we may not be able to discuss its contents. Our worry is that it is now the source of discontentment between the war veterans and the executive, something which I as the minister, or we as the ministry, will not allow. The executive would want to know its authorship and the intended goal.

XN: But if you look at the contents of the document, these are things that have been raised by war veterans during their meetings. How do you correlate the two in light of the denial by the association?

TD: This is the reason I said the matter is under investigation, we could be talking of a document authored outside the country or by some people who want to create animosity between the presidency and the war veterans. Until our investigations, which are being done by the intelligence and other wings of the state give us something concrete, we will take what the war veterans have said and look for who really did that. We don’t want to create wars between the war veterans and the executive.

XN: You are talking about the fight between the war veterans and the executive. War veterans are attacking ministers, even Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, how do you deal with such a scenario?

TD: Again, this is something which is very bad. The war veterans must learn to respect the executive and appreciate that they are carrying out a state function and ought to be respected. Certain actions and behaviour that at times is exhibited by our members is worrisome. It makes my job difficult when I relate with other cabinet colleagues. People, especially war veterans, must just respect the executive and appreciate the need to work harmoniously.
XN: What have you done to ensure that war veterans are disciplined?

TD: It’s very difficult at times, but I have tried my best. You have to understand that some of these things are based on personalities and how people tend to view issues. Differences will always be there but we ought to remove emotions and personal egos when handling some of these issues. I talk to all the war veterans but the problem is that there are factions within the war veterans’ movements. Whenever you talk to this group, the other group will accuse you of belonging to another faction. But as a minister, I am bound to talk to all of them and resolve the conflicts professionally.

XN: How do you relate to your predecessor, Mutsvangwa?

TD: We have a good working relationship and I am glad he understands that I am not the author of what happened to him. That is purely the decision of the party and I am just an appointee of the same.

This is what I was saying, people ought to respect the leaders and those appointed by the president. My wish is to see war veterans respecting both VPs and treating them equally. You might not know what will befall you tomorrow. When there are differences, let us discuss them as mature people without emotions attached to the issues. People ought to discuss issues, not personalities. Be it ministers, the VPs or anyone, I want war veterans to respect those appointed by the president at every level because tomorrow it shall be them in the same position and they shall demand the same treatment from the ordinary people.

XN: We have heard war veterans declaring that VP Emmerson Mnangagwa should take over from Mugabe. What is your response to that?

TD: I have no problems with that when it is said by individuals. In our constitution, we have freedom of expression but it must not be abused or misused. It’s allowed for them to wish but the wishes must not be presented as if it’s a resolution of an association. The war veterans association must be left out as an institution, but if individuals want that, they must say it on their own.

XN: What would be your final words to the war veterans?

TD: let’s unite and focus on developing our future as war veterans. I am talking about anyone who participated in the liberation struggle. We need to find and cherish our unity and what unites us. We need to maximise on things that unite us than focus on issues that divide us. When we have issues, we should solve them without looking at personalities involved. These attacks on the executives are making my work difficult. Let’s stop the fights!

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