HARARE – Riled by the country’s worsening economic rot, disgruntled war veterans have renewed their attacks on President Robert Mugabe — saying the suffering and chaos now being witnessed in the country is not what they fought for during the liberation struggle.
And contrary to recent State media claims that they had been gagged, the angry war veterans also said yesterday that they had no interest in pacifying Mugabe — declaring emphatically that they would not hold back their withering criticism of Zanu PF’s misrule, despite warnings from the military to let go of the feud.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Victor Matamadanda, dismissed “with contempt” claims war vets had been gagged and ordered by their leader Christopher Mutsvangwa to heed recent warnings by the commander of the defence forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, to stop their public brawling with Mugabe.
He emphasised repeatedly that former freedom fighters would “never be silenced either by Mugabe or his emissaries”.
“It is not true that the chairperson (Mutsvangwa) silenced us. That is the false creation of people who are not happy with our executive.
“They think they have found the chance to separate us but they will not succeed. The truth is that these people will not see any split.
“We have no problems in our association and we are operating as usual. We agreed that nothing will divide us and they should just stop wasting their time,” the fearless Matemadanda said.
He once again savaged Mugabe and his government over their failure to act on the country’s worsening economic rot, including the acute shortage of cash, which triggered violent clashes between police and tobacco farmers in Harare last Friday.
“We have reached a stage where we are now saying who will be spared by Mugabe and his government? Who do they want to work with? They beat us, they are now beating up farmers . . . they want to attack everyone and everything.
“Is it a problem that a person should demand his money? We led the farm invasions and we will not stop speaking on behalf of the farmers who are being taken for a ride by the authorities.
“The country’s problems cannot be solved by violence. Surely how can one say one is in power when people are suffering like this? People are suffering that is why you see these demonstrations and yet this government wants to rule by fear.
“Those who can stop this, are they happy when people are being beaten like this? . . . Just imagine, most of the farmers are old and young cops are sent to beat them up. Is this the freedom we fought for?
“Even those who say we should not complain, can we do that when people are being beaten? . . . Let us sit down as Zimbabweans and solve our problems together,” Matemadanda thundered further.
Last week, heavily-armed riot police fired teargas and roughed up desperate tobacco farmers who had been queuing for their money at one of the auction floors in Harare.
This came as the disaffected war veterans have been feuding with Mugabe ever since they issued a damning communiqué against the nonagenarian mid last year.
Until that happened, the fed-up ex-combatants had served as Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s pillars, waging particularly brutal campaigns against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, especially in the bloody elections of 2000 and 2008.
Their stunning fallout with Mugabe and Zanu PF later saw their chairperson Mutsvangwa being fired from both the Cabinet and the ruling party last year, while many of their other top leaders were also banished from the imploding former liberation movement, in addition to being hauled before the courts.
Last week, Matemadanda publicly ignored the warning from Chiwenga and mauled both the general and Mugabe, as the war vets escalated their quarrelling with the 93-year old Zimbabwean leader.
The military commander had savaged their leadership and other Zanu PF bigwigs in an interview with State media, while making veiled threats to the country’s re-energised opposition — which also prompted the MDC to rebuke him sharply last Thursday.
In a stunning move, a fuming Matemadanda pooh-poohed Chiwenga’s warning soon after, saying it was the democratic right of disaffected war veterans to express their feelings over the way they had been treated by Mugabe.
“Remember the General (Chiwenga) is an appointed officer . . . He was appointed by the president and he must be seen under the constitution to be defending the president. But unfortunately, he is the commander of the army and not of civilians.
“It is wrong therefore to think that every Zimbabwean is governed by the Zanu PF constitution. People have to feel free to reflect on issues, and no one can take that away unless if people say they want to introduce a dictatorship,” the miffed Matemadanda said then.
He also moved to defend war veterans’ spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, who had the previous week warned that the freedom fighters would not countenance Mugabe creating “a dynastic rule”.
Mahiya was later in turn criticised by Chiwenga, who also excoriated warring Zanu PF factions which have been going at each other hammer and tongues, in the ruling party’s ugly succession ructions.
“Mahiya talks about a dynasty and if Mugabe is not about to create one why should people suffer for that. Hapana imbwa inohukura sadza unless kana pasi pane nyoka (a dog only barks when it has detected danger).
“People know that there is something that is behind the scenes. Indeed, why should the General worry about a person exercising his democratic right?” Matemadanda asked.
Yesterday, Matemadanda also seized the opportunity to punch holes into Mugabe’s controversial remarks at last week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Durban, South Africa, which sparked anger among long suffering Zimbabweans.
Mugabe claimed that Zimbabwe was only second to South Africa in terms of development on the continent, as he tried to justify why the country should not be treated as a fragile state.
“You say Zimbabwe is second to South Africa in terms of development but the next day you are beating people who are demanding their cash.
“You are talking about protection of human rights yet you beat up people. Is that right and can we be told to shut up?” Matemadanda railed.