President Robert Mugabe’s loyalists on Friday demanded a special Zanu PF congress to deal with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a day after war veterans said they were withdrawing their support for the 92-year-old leader.
BY KENNETH NYANGANI
The over 500 war veterans that met in Harare before issuing the scathing communique on Thursday, expressed unhappiness over moves by the Zanu PF G40 faction to scuttle Mnangagwa’s chances of succeeding Mugabe.
Mugabe was accused by the war veterans of creating G40 to counter his rivals in Zanu PF as the succession wars rocking the ruling party took a new dimension.
Reacting to the stance taken by the war veterans, Zanu PF leaders linked to G40 that include Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, attended a hastily arranged rally in Rusape where youth leaders openly denounced Mnangagwa.
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial youth leader Mubuso Chinguno told the rally that Mnangagwa should either come clean or be expelled.
“Some war veterans keep on endorsing Mnangagwa. we endorsed President Robert Mugabe as our candidate for the 2018 elections; if you endorse someone [else], it’s treasonous,” he said.
“Mnangagwa should come clean. If he is using the war veterans, he should be expelled from the party just like Mujuru and her cabal.”
Former vice-president Joice Mujuru was expelled from Zanu PF towards the end of 2014 on allegations that she was plotting to unseat the veteran ruler. She has denied the charges and has since formed her own party, Zimbabwe People First. Mujuru was immediately replaced by Mnangagwa who is now facing the same allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe.
Zanu PF deputy secretary for youth Kudzi Chipanga suggested that the party should organise a special congress to settle the succession debate.
“All members in the politburo were appointed by President Mugabe so why should we be bothered by people who were appointed?” he charged in a pointed attack on Mnangagwa.
“If it is difficult, we are calling for an extra-ordinary congress and we will see if those people who are leading factionalism in the party will retain their posts.”
The rally held at Vengere Stadium was also attended by Energy minister Samuel Undenge and Manicaland provincial affairs minister Mandi Chimene.
Kasukuwere parcelled out 500 hectares of land, claiming that 2 000 housing stands were immediately available in Rusape.
Chipanga also proposed an August 1 march in support of Mugabe. The ruling party’s youth league gathered in Harare in April for what was dubbed a million-man march before demonstrating again in the capital on Wednesday.
But at their Thursday meeting, war veterans scoffed at the protests, describing them as “bankrupt marches for a bankrupt leadership”.
“All people who have benefitted from our stands on August 1, let’s go to Harare and show support to our President Robert Mugabe: from here [Rusape] it will take just two hours, you will hear someone asking about transport,” Chipanga said.
“It costs just $5. If you don’t want, you can leave our stand and we see what we will do with it”.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) leaders yesterday said they stood by their Thursday communique despite claims by the government that they had disassociated themselves from it.
The former fighters said they feared a crackdown to cow them was being planned amid claims that a war veteran who was photographed chanting Zanu PF slogans at the meeting has been arrested.
“We know what they are up to. The communiqué is correct, but they want to do a witch-hunt to fire the perceived ring leaders like they have done on Mutsvangwa,” said a senior ZNLWVA official.
“We will not be intimidated. We also know they have arrested those police officers who are war veterans because they want to intimidate them so that they extract information on how the meeting was organised and victimise people.”
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said the government would only comment after completing investigations on the war veterans communiqué .
“Government’s position is very clear that there is an investigation underway to determine the veracity of that statement,” he said.
“We will investigate it, and when we reach a stage where we know where the document emanated from, that is when we can comment on it.”
He also denied reports that Mugabe chickened out of a press conference on Friday night, which had been scheduled to address the war veterans’ communique.
“You seem to know who organised it, because I did not organise it and I do not know about it. I am just coming from Buhera and that is how quiet my world is,” he said.
The relationship between Mugabe and the former liberation war fighters deteriorated following First Lady Grace Mugabe’s entry into politics in 2014.