This comes as well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that cracks were beginning to emerge within the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) executive, as the disgruntled ex-combatants send conflicting signals over their position on Mugabe.
In a stunning move, a fuming ZNLWVA secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, yesterday pooh-poohed Chiwenga’s warning, 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 thundered.
He also moved to defend war veterans’ spokesperson Douglas Mahiya, who said last week that former freedom fighters would not countenance Mugabe creating “a dynastic rule”.
Mahiya was later savaged 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.
Speaking in coded language during an interview with State media earlier this week, Chiwenga warned the disgruntled war veterans to stop attacking Mugabe, while also imploring ruling party bigwigs to desist from starting unnecessary intra-party fights.
“This must now stop (attacking Mugabe) . . . If they (war vets) want to remain as part and parcel of those disciplined, loyal, patriotic cadres, they must now understand that it is the party, it is the government that sets the direction.
“The party commands the ex-combatants, not vice versa. The majority of war veterans have nothing to do with this nonsense that we are now getting daily in our media.
“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,” Chiwenga added.
While admitting that ZNLWVA does not represent all war veterans, who are constitutionally regarded as a reserve force, Matemadanda said Chiwenga should be “prepared” to listen to different voices.
“We do not have all war veterans yes, but people should be allowed to differ . . . why threaten to unleash what is not known?
“On him (Chiwenga) being the only surviving Zanla commander, it depends on people’s views. Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who was born in the 1970s, can say he is a senior because of his position in the party . . . but is he really senior?
“So it depends on what he (Chiwenga) says. If it means joining the struggle, we have the likes of Parker Chipoyera in Sanyati and Elias Hondo in Nembudziya.
“There are so many comrades before him (Chiwenga). If he says he is senior because he is the (military) commander, then that is true.
“We agree with him when he says people should not attack the president, but that is relative because in a democratic country we should be free to criticise.
“I don’t see why the general, who fought to bring independence and freedom, now wants to take that freedom away,” the forthright Matemadanda added.
“It was not the understanding of many who died for this country that they should be silenced. What (Chris) Mutsvangwa also says does not remove what Mahiya said.
“It is true that Mugabe led the armed struggle with the late Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo. When Mutsvangwa was (in Monday’s statement) talking, he was praising the role the two played.
“While in the past we have always been attacked by the president, we were happy that the president now recognised the role that was played by war veterans.
“But that does not mean the leopard has changed its spots. There is a tendency by leaders who emerge from liberation struggles to try to create totalitarian States. They want to be more important than the State.
“Some people think that they are more Zimbabwean than others . . . they think they are more Zimbabwean because they participated in the liberation struggle, but that has to be corrected. What about those who were not born then? Are they not Zimbabweans?
“When you are not suffering it’s normal that you support the leadership, but it is not correct to try and silence other people. Those who are enjoying life do not want that to be stopped.
“People should thus understand that those who are benefiting from the status quo do not want things to change, but we are all Zimbabweans and we all deserve to enjoy the fruits of independence.
“It is not wrong to tell the president to stop wasting the country’s resources travelling to foreign countries like Singapore, or throwing obscene birthday bashes.
“It only becomes wrong when some people want to silence us. But we will not be silenced,” Matemadanda told the Daily News.
War veterans have been feuding with Mugabe since they issued a damning communiqué against the increasingly frail 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.
Mutsvangwa’s executive has also publicly said it favours Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe at both government and party levels.
Zanu PF insiders told the Daily News that there is an ongoing realignment of alliances within the deeply divided ruling party and it was no coincidence that sections of the ex-combatants had suddenly decided to soften their stance towards Mugabe, whom they lavished with praise on Monday despite the parties’ well-known rocky relations.
This was after Mutsvangwa issued a statement in which the ex-combatants showered Mugabe with praise for his recent speech at the burial in Harare of former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) assistant director, Zenzo Ntuliki.