After an ugly war of words that saw President Robert Mugabe firing their leader Christopher Mutsvangwa from government, former liberation war fighters on Thursday finally met the 92-year-old leader where they made a long list of demands.
Mugabe skirted most of the demands, especially on the contentious G40 faction led by First Lady Grace Mugabe, but the restless freedom fighters still claim they emerged victorious at the City Sports Centre.
Our chief reporter Everson Mushava (EM) spoke to Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association national spokesperson Douglas Mahiya (DM) to get the former fighter’s perspective on the outcome of the meeting. Below are excerpts of the interview.
EM: You eventually met Mugabe after your first attempt to register your concerns were frustrated by the police in February. How do you feel now?
DM: We were very pleased to have finally met the president. The national executive of the war veterans met after the meeting and they have asked me as the secretary for information and publicity, to thank the president for opening the avenues of communication through the War Veterans ministry.
That was an achievement; it was the missing link between him (Mugabe) as commander-in- chief of the defence forces and commander of the liberation war fighters to constantly have interface and exchange notes.
After the meeting, it is easy for us now to reach him. This was what we wanted to do in the first place when we were tear-gassed.
People didn’t quite understand us; in actual fact, our detractors (G40 — a Zanu PF faction made up mainly of people who did not participate in the liberation struggle] did not want this meeting to take place because they were going to be side-lined because they were not in the political line of the revolution.
So, the war veterans would like to thank the president for that.We would also want to thank our secretary for war veterans affairs Sydney Sekeramayi.
He did everything in his power to make the meeting successful.
The war veterans have also thanked specifically our permanent secretary, Walter Tapfumaneyi, for a job well done. We thank him very much for the effort he has put in ensuring that everything went on well.
EM: You grouped the war veterans into thematic committees that later made presentations before Mugabe. Were you satisfied with your presentations?
DM: We have looked at the presentations that were done, satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily.
Since the president asked us to work together with the ministry, we are going to engage the ministry on all issues.
If the issues are too big for the ministry, we are quite sure our minister Tshinga Dube will take them up to the president. If need be, we can also go and see our own patron.
It is the frequency to meet the president that was exploited by those people working against us, by people who are trying to steal our diamond, gold box (Mugabe) from us; they are trying to own the president and the president to disown us.
Really, we are happy that at the end of the day, we got our diamond and gold box back to us.
We can now communicate with him directly. That is what the national executive has recognised and will continue to expect more meetings with the president.
EM: What were you itching to tell the president at the meeting?
DM: We said a lot of things, but we were very excited to clarify the difference between stockholders and stakeholders.
We are the custodians of the party; we are custodians of the revolution, not a mere affiliate to the party.
We also wanted him to know that, and indeed he knows that it’s the work of the war veterans that has kept Zanu PF in power for the past 36 years.
EM: You have told him, now what are you going to do from here?
DM: We are now going to re-cultivate a good relationship with the masses that has kept Zanu PF in power.
We are going to reject any attempts to stop that from happening, because any attempt from anyone to stop us is simply confirming that the person has come into Zanu PF to enrich himself and destroy Zanu PF from within, like what we are witnessing with some of the ministers who have gone to the extent of demonstrating a non-relationship with the war veterans.
It clearly shows that they are not for Zanu PF. War vets are the symbol of Zanu PF.
The president has reassigned us; he has simply affirmed that we are the bedrock of the revolution, so we are very thankful about that.
EM: Did you review Mugabe’s speech at the meeting? What is your assessment or your sentiments regarding his speech?
DM: We deliberately took it as it is, though it did not dwell on the thematic committee presentations, but at the end of the meeting, he accepted all the resolutions that we had made.
I think he simply took advantage to explain to the war veterans national programmes and reminding us of certain valuable positions of the revolution, as what should be done by every leader from time to time. What is important is that, although he did not dwell on actual issues, he accepted our proposals.
EM: Are you confident the president will look into the issues you raised and implement them?
DM: He should, especially on the question of land, the question of our welfare; he promised us that he would look into them.
EM: Mugabe deliberately did not comment on some issues you raised, especially on the organisation of Zanu PF, roles of the commissariat department, use of slogans and other things, do you think he will respect your recommendations on those issues?
DM: The implementation of our resolutions is what we would want to look at. If they are not implemented, then we will take yesterday’s gathering as a mere talk show.
But the president is not that kind of a person, normally, he sticks to his word, although he did not comment on the issue of the political commissar, war veterans were very clear that the position should be held by the war veterans.
When we got independence 36 year ago, the political commissar (Saviour Kasukuwere) was possibly 11 to 12 years old, he cannot articulate the commissariat work more competently than the war veterans.
We want the party to tap in the ability by war veterans to mobilise. They are experts in mobilisation.
As you can see today, there are more expulsion and dismissal meetings than meetings to mobilise the masses. This is not acceptable.
EM: Last week, Psychology Maziwisa, the MP for Highfield West, said most war veterans were not educated, and that was the reason they were making a lot of noise and not respecting Mugabe. Why were such issues not raised at the meeting?
DM: No, we raised all issues we wanted to; in fact, we were not threatened at all.
Being educated and requesting government to look into our welfare as a result of the loss of time to the revolution is not being uneducated, it is actually being educated because the educated failed to take us on board over a long period, we were not rehabilitated and we were not reinstated into society after the war.
Everybody else knows that we are not educated, but that is beside the point.
I cannot cease to be better than Maziwisa because in terms of unrolling the political developments and expediting the political programmes that are necessary for social political development, I am much better.
Does Maziwisa think that my output is of an uneducated person? The war veterans that are in Parliament, in government ministries, does he think he is more educated than them?
No! It does not matter being educated, when you tell me of how many degrees you have, it is about how much of the western education you have acquired and the west knows how much of theirs is in you. So you cannot boast about having as much as you have, that belongs to the western world.
If he was educated in the African way, that could have been better, he could be having the much- needed wisdom that we could have considered.
I am educated in the manner of our culture, he needs to follow that.