War veterans warn Mugabe

HARARE - War veterans loyal to President Robert Mugabe have told him the hard truth: Zanu PF is losing support even in his home province at a time the 88-year-old is vigorously pushing for elections.

In no-holds-barred talk, the war veterans’ leadership told Mugabe that the decline has nothing to do with the MDC but is the result of a dictatorial, lackluster and inept party leadership failing to read the mood swing in party strongholds.

Combative war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda, who delivered the news to Mugabe, said the party was in tatters in Mashonaland West Province.

Sibanda told the Daily News that he met Mugabe recently to inform him about the appalling state of affairs, adding some rallies by provincial leaders attracted no more than 20 people.

“I told the President that there is a problem with leaders who were imposed and do not attract voters.
“If someone is imposed, the effect is that the people will not recognise him. That is what is obtaining in Mashonaland West,” he told the Daily News.

Sibanda’s take is significant as it exposes top Zanu PF leaders who often mislead Mugabe about events on the ground and the extent of the party’s support.

It could also be a pointer to the divisions ripping the party apart and could affect Mugabe’s bid to overturn a March 2008 presidential election first round defeat to rival and now coalition government partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.  

Mashonaland West is one of the provinces that stood by Mugabe and Zanu PF as the majority of former strongholds deserted the party in 2008 when the MDC ended Mugabe’s hold on Parliament and executive power.

During the 2008 harmonised elections, Zanu PF won 88. 89 percent of the seats in  Mashonaland Central, 82.61 percent in Mashonaland East, 74.07 percent in Midlands and 72.73 percent in Mashonaland West.

Sibanda said Mugabe can no longer count on such massive support.

He lost in other provinces that used to back him such as Masvingo and Manicaland.

In Mashonaland West, the MDC got 27.27 percent of the vote and Sibanda told Mugabe the former labour movement could improve on the tally if factionalism and candidate imposition in Zanu PF remain unresolved.

He said he has now camped in the province to drum up support and revitalise the party, a move that has left MDC activists in fear of a violent campaign.

“I am now in Mashonaland West province and I can confirm that there are some leaders who do not enjoy popular support,” he told the Daily News, adding that unlike some of the local leaders, he wants to touch base with the people.

“Even when Jesus said ‘makwayi angu anonzwa izwi rangu’ (my sheep heed my call) he was saying so because he had walked among his people and the people knew his voice and his works. I am still in Mashonaland and I will be there building support for the party,” said Sibanda.

His move to Mugabe’s home province comes at a time when Zanu PF has intensified its campaign ahead of watershed elections which the party wants held in March.

Tsvangirai says March is too early for a free and fair poll and wants the election pushed to June to allow time for democratic reforms.

Just last week, Mugabe launched a scheme to dish out free seed and fertiliser.

Mugabe’s coalition partners say the scheme is suspicious and its funding is secret although Mugabe has previously stated that it is funded by “well-wishers”.

Sources say Mugabe, desperate to extend his 32 year rule, has given the firebrand war veterans’ leader the nod to mobilise support in the province.

War veterans, often accused of driving political violence, have come to Mugabe’s rescue since 2000 when party structures began to crumble and a newly formed MDC nearly caused an upset.

Sibanda said some MPs in the province should be forced to step down for a new crop.

Sibanda has already been on a trailblazing campaign in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces where he rattled both the local Zanu PF leadership and the MDC.

It seems no different in Mashonaland West.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairperson John Mafa were futile but sources said local leaders were unhappy that Sibanda was taking over Mugabe’s campaign.

The MDC too, is rattled.

“Jabulani Sibanda is here and he has been calling rallies telling people to vote for Mugabe. Here the message that Zanu PF is giving to the people daily is that crimes of 2008 have not been punished and that will happen again if you vote for the MDC,” said Eddie Ndirayire, the MDC Mashonaland West deputy chairperson.


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