Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association chairperson Mr Christopher Mutsvangwa yesterday called his lieutenants Messers Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya to order, barring them from speaking on behalf of the liberation war fighters.
Mr Mutsvangwa said in an interview that his word was final and the association’s executive was not only in agreement with him, but stood guided by his word.
Mr Mutsvangwa on Wednesday said the ZNLWVA stood guided by Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ Commander General Constantine Guveya Chiwenga’s counsel that war veterans should respect the leadership of Zanu-PF and Government.
Gen Chiwenga said this after noticing how some members of the war veterans association were unabatedly disparaging the leadership of the party and Government in the privately owned media. Only yesterday, the association’s secretary general Mr Matemadanda appeared to defy Mr Mutsvangwa, saying Gen Chiwenga was an appointed officer and “must be seen under the Constitution to be defending the President”.
He was further quoted as saying Gen Chiwenga “was commander of the army, not civilians”.
But Mr Mutsvangwa yesterday poured cold water on the utterances saying: “The chair has spoken. I am the final word and that is the position of the association.
“That is the position of the ZNLWVA executive. They stand by my word as chair. We do not qualify the position of the chair.”
Mr Mutsvangwa explained circumstances surrounding Mr Matemadanda’s remarks in the private media.
“Mahiya had the opportunity to correct himself because I talked to him,” he said. “Matemadanda was in Gokwe and I was unable to talk to him. He was not on the same page with others and was, therefore, out of touch. You may talk to him now.”
When contacted Mr Matemadanda, he referred questions to Mr Mutsvangwa. “I have nothing to say. We do not operate as individuals. We operate as an association,” he said.
On Wednesday, Mr Mutsvangwa said: “He (Gen Chiwenga) is a serving General and he never normally strays into political issues,” he said. “He is also a very senior commander. He went to war in 1973 when he was very young.
“He has built up a lot of experience and wisdom and so when he decides to say something we give it due weight and gravity. It is only right and proper that we listen to him with respect.”
In an interview with our sister papers The Herald and The Sunday Mail on Monday, Gen Chiwenga said Zimbabwe’s security services would not stand by while rogue elements belittle President Mugabe, their Commander-in-Chief.
He warned that dissent from quarters that should know better would not be tolerated.
Gen Chiwenga said many of the people making political noises today were either utterly misguided, had a history of treachery or were Johnnies-come-lately to the struggle.
This followed a stream of commentary in the private media from a war veterans grouping trying to create the impression that the majority of liberation fighters — who are a Reserve Force — have lost faith in President Mugabe.
Gen Chiwenga’s sentiments came on the back of claims by some politicians within Zanu-PF that they were the President’s number one backers, yet they had a well-documented history of treachery. Gen Chiwenga said people like ZNLWVA spokesperson Mr Mahiya should appreciate that they were fronting an NGO and not the majority of ex-combatants.
“I am talking on behalf of the Defence and Security Services of the country; and besides that, on the Zanla side, I am the surviving most senior commander.
And I am not in the (war veterans) association,” he said.
“But when they go out there they talk as war veterans. They must talk as a war veterans association. But who are these people? What were they during the struggle that makes them think that they are now more revolutionary than Zanla and Zipra at the height of war? What role did they play?
Mr Mahiya yesterday promised to contact our Harare Bureau with a comment each time he was phoned, but never did.