The 'gospel' according to Jabulani Sibanda

HARARE - War veterans have stitched a new plan to prop up President Robert Mugabe in watershed elections which the veteran leader and his colleagues want held by June.

Known for their knee-jerk tactics and combative mood often accompanied by violence, the former freedom fighters have roped in the church and traditional leaders to help Mugabe and Zanu PF retain power in the forthcoming plebiscite.

Mugabe is still smarting from the 2008 March defeat to rival- turned-coalition-partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

War veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda told the Daily News his “sermons” which have been coined “the gospel according to Jabulani” are aimed at rescuing Zimbabwe from slipping into the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah which he says is Tsvangirai’s push.

“We have been on the ground for the last four years. Ever since we came into this inclusive government we have been doing peaceful work among the masses in the provinces.

“We as freedom fighters even when we started war there was no area where we started a combat against the enemy without informing the locals through the traditional and spiritual leadership,” Sibanda told the Daily News.

“Because the position of the revolution, the position of the party Zanu PF itself, and the position that we stand for, is the same position of the traditional leadership and the spiritual leadership, regardless of denominations.

“All of us believe there is one God and we believe that this country was given to us by God and we were created black by God as an identity that identifies us as natural inhabitants of this place.

“We have stood with that, the support of the church and the traditional leaders and the support of revolutionaries and the revolution.

“So we, the church, revolution and the traditional leaders; we are one, we have been working as one.

“The enemies of our revolution are not only bringing strange ideas but even strange behaviour. Could you have imagined 15 years ago that in our country there would be some people who want to enact a Bill in Parliament that gives people rights to homosexuality and lesbianism?”

Sibanda was referring to Tsvangirai’s recognition of the rights of gays and lesbians in a new constitution, a statement which was gladly used by the MDC leader’s rivals to slander him.

“The message is what is expected of us as the church when the devil is walking in our country wanting to enact his laws to create Sodom and Gomorrah which was destroyed by God.

What is expected of us as believers in God. We are revolutionaries; we went out there in the bush to fight on the side of God in the fight of truth. We are here to meet as freedom fighters, spiritual leaders and traditional leaders to make sure that the devil does not come in our amidst.

“These people (MDC and Tsvangirai) are here now and they have expressed their views. Fortunately, we have used all means to bury that thing in the early stages of the constitution- making process.

“But this draft is not the finality of the constitution-making that’s why even after it there will still exist the Parliament.

“It is not the totality of what the people need, it is going to be rectified as we move along as the society’s needs arise. The constitution is not static it is dynamic,” said Sibanda.

He said Zanu PF was not fazed by claims that it would lose a free and fair contest that would be created under a new constitution.

The liberation movement and Mugabe have extensively relied on the “defective” Lancaster House constitution for survival in previous elections.

It has been amended 19 times in just 32 years of independence.

Zimbabwe is likely to hold a constitutional referendum next month to vote or reject a new charter.

But Sibanda sees no problems.

“We will have a new constitution from an old constitution that was derived from another old constitution but what you don’t realise is that we have got the same people.

“We are the same people that fought against the Smith constitution; we are the same people that went to Lancaster to come with a document that was compromised between us and those we fought against and this document again is the same document which is a compromise between us and those that are fighting against the revolution.

“But we are the same experienced people from the three previous constitutions. We know where we are going and along the way we will carry those prepared to walk with us.

“We could have done something to these guys but we preferred to accommodate them, move with them not that we are subjugated by them, not that we want to subjugate them but we want to educate them to see further,” he told the Daily News.

He said war veterans and Zanu PF had learned from history and defeat in the 2008 elections, vowing ‘there will not be another mistake”.

Against that background, Sibanda said war veterans were holding peaceful meetings aimed at bolstering numbers in the provinces.

“I have been out personally in the bush for four years. I have read, including in your paper, sometimes, putting allegations on me but your paper never showed even one person who is a victim of violence.

“There has never been violence from the war veterans and there will never be violence from the war veterans. War veterans have not been engaged in violence.

“Even in self-defence we have said try to defend yourself not violently.

“Why would I need violence against another black guy when for 17 years the whites were keeping our land we fought for yet no violence was recorded against them.

“We are law-abiding citizens. We don’t want violence. We are not a violent people. I know how the opposition behaves. You see when Tsvangirai has scuffles with the law (enforcement agents) and Madhuku, I have seen in your paper, they will bandage the whole body, finger by finger, everything that you can touch and identify; they will bandage to show people they have been violently treated.

“But for four years with that conduct they have not done one percent bandaging to show that it comes from the operations we are carrying.

“Actually I am the humblest person you can ever come across. I don’t believe in violence. War veterans are not violent. It is not our option because we can defeat them in a free and fair election,” said Sibanda.

War veterans swamped farms and left a trail of destruction in the bloody and chaotic 2000 agrarian reforms and were accused of going on a retributive exercise in the run-up to the sham 2008 presidential run-off in which 200 MDC  supporters were killed after Mugabe suffered his first ever presidential election defeat.

Tsvangirai pulled out of the race days before polling citing massive violence against his supporters.

“Peaceful elections are what we want to see. If war veterans have had four years doing peaceful work how can we, days before elections, create violence and distort what we would have been working for?” asked Sibanda.

Incredibly, Sibanda accused the mainstream MDC of violence and murder. “It is them that should actually move away from violence. MDC is the most violent party I have ever known in my life. Look at Cain Nkala.
“He was killed by the MDC.

“They went to court and walked scot-free not because they were not guilty but the judge said it was technical. The case was mishandled somehow.

“Naturally, you know technicality is by law, it is not by the conduct of the crime.

“The fact remains — they killed Cain Nkala. They are a violent people and are funded actually to do that so that we have got problems in the country so that their backers can apply sanctions.

“Peaceful elections are our interest and have been always our interest,” said Sibanda.

He blamed the inclusive government for stalling development choosing to play the emotional card: “GNU is one of the most of discrepancies that our history is going to condemn us for — having stooped that low to the level of participating in it”.

He said it was not befitting for Zanu PF to share power with Tsvangirai because previously he had called for economic sanctions that included cutting power and fuel supplies from South Africa at the height of the economic problems.

“I hope we don’t have five people like Tsvangirai. Even under those conditions we held ourselves.

“We remained meek and meekness means a controlled power that you can destroy a guy and still be justified but you hold yourself and you don’t do it; believing that he is going to wake up from his slumber”.

Sibanda’s leadership has been a subject of disgruntlement and anger among other war veterans who have gone to create splinter groups.

But the indefatigable war vets chief is unmoved. “These people who are saying are Zipra or Zanla are people who do not realise the situation we are in now. I am former Zipra and that guy there is a former Zanla.

“He was trained in Zanla not to be Zanla but a freedom fighter, I was trained in Zipra not to be Zipra but a freedom fighter. We had a common goal. These were two halves of the same liberation movement to liberate one country, Zimbabwe. So we were not two liberation movements but one liberation movement liberating one country but from two formations, the objective was one."

“Those people who are claiming a fall-out are the people that are politically short-sighted. They are victims of such type of disease and sickness. We cry for them but we don’t mourn them”.

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