IT is almost a year since the relationship between President Robert Mugabe and war veterans took a turn for the worse when riot police teargassed former freedom fighters that tried to stage a demonstration against his wife Grace, in Harare on February 18 2016.
Four months later, the war veterans made a shock announcement that they were withdrawing their support of Mugabe because of his reluctance to pass on the baton to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
They accused the 93-year-old ruler of being “genocidal” and a dictator. On the eve of the 2018 elections, the rift between Zimbabwe’s only president since independence and his storm-troopers in previous polls continues to widen.
Last week, state media claimed Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association leader Christopher Mutsvangwa was spearheading plans to form a coalition of opposition parties that wanted business mogul Strive Masiyiwa to be their leader.
The war veterans were also barred from holding their meeting in Harare last week by police who said they had not been granted permission.
Our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) on Friday spoke to Mutsvangwa (CM) on the alleged coalition and various other issues. Predictably, he blamed all the problems on G40 and sounded conciliatory towards Mugabe. Below are excerpts of the interview.
OM: Is it true that you are spearheading efforts to form a coalition of opposition parties as alleged by the state media?
CM: There is no truth in that at all. It is a creation of G40 because they are scared as their ascendency in Zanu PF is under serious challenge and it’s a matter of time before they fall.
So they are coming up with a number of allegations against the war veterans. They masterminded the expulsion of war veterans from Zanu PF for no good reason.
They are haunted by that and they made up those accusations.
OM: As war veterans, what role do you want to play as we head towards the 2018 elections?
CM: When the country is under serious economic challenges, we always want to unite all Zimbabweans. When we had serious political challenges in the 1960s and 70s, we advocated for a united front of the political parties, the liberation movements, the military forces and of course all Zimbabweans and we ended up in political victory in 1980.
We now face serious economic challenges and we want all Zimbabweans who are progressive, who mean well for the country, who are not of the G40 mind to come together so that we collectively address the pressing economic challenge which this country is facing.
No country has suffered economic deterioration to the levels of Zimbabwe in peace times. Every index of the Sustainable Development Goals, the social development index is negative. We want that addressed and we do our best as all united Zimbabweans regardless of race, colour, creed or religion.
OM: Can you explain the links some of your members have with ZimPF. Recently some attended a ZimPF meeting.
CM: We are open to all Zimbabweans who are progressive. I don’t know this one but if they are progressive Zimbabweans and they ask for meetings, the criteria is that are you patriotic, are you progressive, do you mean well for Zimbabwe?
After all, the constitution of Zimbabwe of 2013 made all Zimbabweans to come together including the opposition parties so we have no reason to be gratuitously against other patriotic Zimbabweans particularly if they subscribe to the Constitution of 2013.
OM: Do you think the mooted alliance of opposition parties is going to make an impact?
CM: We want a unity of all progressive forces to address the pressing economic challenges. We don’t subscribe as an organisation to the political parties in their own identity but as patriots we do.
So we make a distinction and anyone who is patriotic regardless of political affiliation we are open.
OM: Are you prepared to go back to Zanu PF if given a chance?
CM: Zanu PF has a lot of history and has a lot of people who support it. Zanu PF’s will was subverted by G40, that is why we became victims because we protested.
We fought against that usurpation of power by the G40. If the people of Zanu PF reassert their democratic credentials, as is happening now in Masvingo and elsewhere and the party again becomes a democratic party and reverts back to the old traditions, we will always feel welcome and will be happy to have a communion with people in Zanu PF.
OM: Mugabe recently said there was no suitable person to take over from him. What are your thoughts on succession?
CM: I am not going to comment on that. Cde Mugabe is a statesman and he says things in a certain manner but at the end of the day, people go to elections and there is a democratic expression.
That is what is important so I will not bother much on that and Zimbabweans are free to judge
OM: How about the statement by first lady, Grace Mugabe that Mugabe’s corpse will rule this country. What’s your take on that?
CM: We gave the people of Zimbabwe the freedom to choose. We gave them the right to the freedom to associate and they can assess for themselves.
They are very much educated. I can’t be commenting on each and every statement that might be emanating from every politician.
Let the people of Zimbabwe in their own freedom be the judges of such kind of statements.
OM: You have been linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa but he recently disowned saying you are rogue elements. Can you shed more light on your relationship with the VP?
CM: We are expelled from Zanu PF and we are not associated with Zanu PF and its structures.
Cde Mnangagwa is vice-president of Zanu PF, he is free to express his views, which might emanate from the party.
It is his democratic right to say that but we are not unduly bothered. We focus on whom we think is the enemy of Zimbabwe and that enemy is the usurpation of power by the vapid and vacuous clique called G40, which has caused the economic ruination of the country.
That is what our focus is and all other things are sideshows and we don’t concentrate on sideshows. We are serious people.
OM: You are challenging that alleged clique, G40, to a debate. What would it be about?
CM: We want the people of Zimbabwe to judge the merits of G40 versus war veterans. We have pedigree; we have a history and a record of achieving something extra ordinary for the people of Zimbabwe.
We have a record of being sons of Africa who trained all over the region.
We have a record of going to many countries as young people to embrace foreign ideas to make Zimbabwe become a free and democratic country to dismantle a vicious state apparatus of the Rhodesians.
This is our pedigree. The G40’s Jonathan Moyo was a traitor and we want the people of Zimbabwe to choose freely because we gave them the platform of free democratic discourse and free association.
Let’s come to the market place of ideas, there is electronic media and all types of media. Let him come, we are ready and we will cut him to size, we can assure you that.
OM: You are on record appreciating the work Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya is doing. What is it that he is doing to earn your praise?
CM: It is the promotion of Zimbabwe as an exporting country. For Zimbabwe’s economy to revive and go back to the global market place the only way to do that is to become an exporter of things that have value.
Business is about products and services which are demanded by the market and Cde Mangudya is very right to focus on that.
Which crops, which minerals have demand on the global market and let’s put our energy on those and earn US dollars.
He is very right because once we do that, we attract foreign direct investment. We are in the age of capital and Mangudya is right to address those issues.
This is contrary to the negative pernicious thinking of the G40 which says we must not go to capital markets, we don’t want foreign direct investment and we must squeeze companies like [Patrick] Zhuwao [Indigenisation minister] is doing.
We must ruin the banks. This is a scotched earth policy which is being advocated by the G40 and Mangudya is doing exactly the opposite and we are happy.
OM: Now that you have been forced to shelve your meeting as war veterans, what are you going to do to push your issues such as those related to your welfare?
CM: We always push for the welfare of war veterans because their plight is so bad.
They are living hand to mouth and these are the best soldiers which Africa has produced which managed to defeat the Rhodesians.
We were very much trained. We are the only African army which defeated the Anglo-Saxon army and we have an impeccable record as a military.
So this army deserves to be recognised but 36 years after, those who survived in it and those who died after surviving that war, they have always been in abject poverty and they are in a sorry state.
Their welfare is very important but along the way because of the mismanagement of the economy, the plight of all Zimbabweans is now shared misery. We are a cesspit of human misery and that is what we are.
Every indication of the socio-development goal indexes is negative about Zimbabwe. Typhoid, Tyson Kasukuwere — this is what they have offered and we would want now to have a universal, a global and inclusive address of the economic ills afflicting the country so that we can free up the opportunities for every Zimbabwean, not just the war veterans. We are in the same bed, same swimming pool as all Zimbabweans.