President Robert Mugabe will be the biggest loser in the raging war of attrition against war veterans after his storm-troopers pulled a shocker last month and told him to step down.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Mugabe reacted to the rejection with fury and ordered a crackdown on leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veteran Associations (ZNLWVA) over their communiqué that described him as a dictator and a failed leader.
ZNLWVA chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa, his deputy Headmen Moyo, secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, spokesperson Douglas Mahiya and political commissar Francis Nhando were fired from Zanu PF last week.
Research and Advocacy Unit chairperson Lloyd Sachikonye said war veterans had been key in keeping Mugabe in power and the fallout would leave the 92-year-old ruler exposed.
“What is happening at the moment is a product of what has been happening over the past 10 years. The succession issue is central to the fighting,” he said.
“Until it is sorted out, the tension between the political leadership and war veterans will continue. If you read their communiqué, you will see that the issue of succession is central.
“War veterans have been very active in supporting and campaigning for Zanu PF in the past five elections and the party has been winning elections,” Sachikonye added.
“If they were to maintain their position that they will not campaign for Zanu PF in 2018, it will be a disadvantage to Zanu PF.”
Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) Trust director Ibbo Mandaza said war veterans had for a long time been Mugabe’s weapon against opposition parties.
He said without that weapon, Mugabe would increasingly have to fight to maintain his grip on power.
“He lost a major ally. Since the [former war veterans leader Chenjerai] Hunzvi days to the land reforms and the violent elections, the war veterans have been his ally, if not a weapon, through which the opposition was under siege. Mugabe will lose the most,” Mandaza said.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga weighed in, saying Mugabe would unlikely survive without the support of war veterans.
“The war veterans’ fallout is definitely the end of a relationship in which Mugabe mainly used the war veterans to prop his political career,” he said.
“Now that the war veterans have opened their eyes to see the oppression of Mugabe’s rule, they have become an inconvenience that Mugabe wants to get rid of,” he said.
“It is unlikely that Mugabe will himself survive without the support from the war veterans who have been his pillar since the liberation struggle days. This is the end.”
Harare-based political analyst Gladys Hlatywayo said the fallout between Mugabe and war veterans was good for democracy.
“It is an end of an era. War veterans have been a pillar of support for the Zanu PF regime for many years,” he said.
“They helped in creating the autocrat in our midst. It is unfortunate that it took them so many years to realise that Mugabe was on an ego trip.
“Nevertheless, their agitation helps to push the democratisation agenda forward.
“One hope is that they will not just push for changes in faces of people but for a total overhaul of this authoritarian system into a more democratic governance system that respects the rule of law and derives its legitimacy from the governed.
“Mugabe, therefore, stands to lose in a big way because these are some of the people he has been using to retain power, especially in rural areas.”
War veterans were instrumental in keeping Mugabe in power in 2008 after he lost the first round of the presidential elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai was forced to pull out of the run-off poll after Zanu PF launched a violent campaign against the opposition.
The campaign was led by the former fighters and left tens of MDC-T supporters dead, while thousands were displaced by the violence.
War veterans were also instrumental in the often violent land reform programme that displaced the majority of the country’s white commercial farmers.