WHILE President Robert Mugabe has used every opportunity he has had in the past few months to disabuse his lieutenants from stoking succession fires, even to the extent of describing such talk as treasonous, veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle have taken the war to his doorstep.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The former freedom fighters accused by Mugabe of “operating outside the party” in the past week or so, have come out guns blazing, telling Mugabe that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is their man.
“Mnangagwa does not want to take over; he is already in the bus, in a firm position to take over and is under no pressure. It is those that are at the back of the queue who are pushing to take the baton from the one in second place,” part of the resolutions from meetings by the war veterans read.
Mnangagwa has remained mum even after he was publicly humiliated by Hurungwe East lawmaker Sarah Mahoka in February for letting his supporters abuse other activists in the succession battle for Mugabe’s throne.
With Zanu PF tottering on the brink of implosion, and the war veterans spoiling for a bare knuckle fight with a faction of the ruling party’s young leaders known as G40, which is pushing for First Lady Grace to succeed Mugabe, analysts contend that the belligerent ex-fighters might do more harm than good to Mnangagwa’s chances.
The war veterans are stating their position, making it clear that they will not support any other person other than Mnangagwa. They are categorical that the hierarchy of Zanu PF points to their candidate taking charge after Mugabe. While that may be okay, it could be counterproductive in the greater scheme of Zanu PF politics.
Analysts say this might not be tactical because such utterances may be used by their opponents in the G40 to parrot their long-held view that Mnangagwa is plotting to take over from Mugabe, or even to depose the Zanu PF leader.
Tawanda Mukurunge, a Ph.D student at Limkokwing University in Lesotho and keen Zimbabwe politics follower, said Mugabe’s relationship with the former freedom fighters has always been tenuous.
“Quite a number, if not the majority of war veterans, have always regarded Mugabe with suspicion since the death of Josiah Tongogara [Zanu wartime commander].
“They also felt cheated when Mugabe appointed Joice Mujuru as his deputy in 2004 because they argue, Zanu PF always had a hierarchy as to who would succeed Mugabe. At one time the likes of Vitalis Zvinavashe [former defence forces chief] complained that Mugabe was reneging on that agreement by appointing Mujuru to the presidium when originally she wasn’t even in the party’s top 10,” Mukurunge said.
He added: “The likes of Constantine Chiwenga [current defence forces boss] view themselves much closer to taking over the presidency after Mnangagwa and they see this talk about [First Lady] Grace being advanced as a threat to their own interests. Remember Mugabe has always been sensitive to whatever position the war veterans take and he can deliberately posit himself with the civilians in the so-called G40 faction at his own peril. He created a reserve army in war veterans; they are one with the military and there will be no peace for Mugabe if he is at loggerheads with the military.”
Mukurunge said Mnangagwa’s chances would remain bright for as long as the military remained adamant he is their man.
“No matter how many million marches Grace and company can hold, if the military doesn’t endorse her, their chances are dead in the water,” he said.
Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa said the war veterans were asserting their feeling of entitlement openly.
“The war veterans are reacting to their snub at the million-man march when the youths and women hogged the limelight and excluded them from the jamboree. They realise they have to fight hard to reassert their position.
“They feel more entitled and want to be the kingmakers. They also realise Mugabe’s weakness and are as tired as most people are desperate for change but they won’t countenance G40 leadership,” Magaisa said.