HARARE - Hundreds of war veterans aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa were on Thursday reduced to “street kids” after spending the night in the open, as they were left stranded when police thwarted their demonstration to push President Robert Mugabe to reinstate the suspended Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA)’s executive.
When the Daily News visited the war veterans’ offices along Robert Mugabe Road, a number of freedom fighters were seen milling around the premises, with the current factional and succession wars bedevilling the Zanu PF party dominating their discussions.
The distraught ex-combatants whose planned Thursday demonstration was thwarted by the police, savaged Zanu PF’s Young Turks faction which is also known as the Generation 40 (G40), accusing it of destabilising the ruling party.
“Our children are suffering yet some people are hiring private jets to travel around the country addressing rallies and donating food for their political gains while we are failing to send our children to school,” said one of the war veterans in a thinly veiled attack on First Lady Grace Mugabe and her allies.
The freedom fighter, who pleaded not to be named, claimed that police were refusing to grant them permission to hold their planned meeting.
The current running battles between the police and war veterans arose after some of the ex-combatants, who are backing Christopher Mutsvangwa, his deputy Headman Moyo and secretary-general Victor Matemadanda, demanded that the trio be reinstated otherwise they would take matters into their own hands.
Among a litany of charges levelled against Mutsvangwa and his colleagues including his wife Monica, is the allegation of disrespecting Mugabe and his spouse Grace and making press statements using abusive language directed at other party and government officials.
However, the trio has scoffed at their ouster labelling it as null and void saying the association’s interim leader Mandi Chimene had no locus standi since she forfeited her post after she spent more than three months without attending the national executive committee meetings.
Pursuant to this claim, war veterans from different provinces were transported to Harare on Thursday, to express their discontent over Mutsvangwa’s ouster. Despite the setback they suffered, the war veterans were yesterday adamant that they would proceed with their meeting.
“We are being victimised by the police, they forget we brought that freedom they are enjoying today. The police are refusing to grant us permission of holding a meeting as war veterans, we don’t support anyone, we want to have a meeting to discuss our welfare as war veterans.
“We fought for this country and we are now treated like fools. We don’t want to sit back and relax while some politicians are mocking us. We are now a laughing stock, we are being treated like foreigners in our own land, this must stop,” another war veteran said.
They said they were going to stay put until their concerns were raised.
“We are going to stay here until our concerns are addressed by the president. We fought for this country so we deserve to be respected. What I want to tell these politicians is that they are there because of us. We heard some respected politician saying we are drunkards, we know what we want, we are not here to be used by anyone but we are worried by the situation in the country. From today onwards our slogan is down with those who mock us at their rallies.”
The war veterans said the G40 group should stop saying bad things about them.
“This so-called G40 group must sit down and trace the history of this country. Even if they kill us, we are ready to fight for this country, we love Zimbabwe, there is nothing they will do to disperse us until our concerns are addressed.
“We are not fools but we want to tell all Zimbabweans that no one owns this country,” said one of the disgruntled war veterans.
In a fashion reminiscent to what usually happens each time opposition political parties gather, the war veterans were dispersed using water cannons and teargas after they camped at the City Sports Centre on Thursday.
The move incensed the often boisterous war veterans, who felt belittled by the police’s “heavy-handedness” with Mutsvangwa stating that they are now considering suing the law enforcement agency.