HARARE - In a sensational claim, former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda has allegedly turned down an offer from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF for him to take over as War Veterans minister from the under-fire incumbent, Christopher Mutsvangwa.
The fearless Sibanda, who was sacked from Zanu PF in 2014 after accusing First Lady Grace Mugabe of usurping her husband’s powers and staging “a bedroom coup” at State House, would have been a totally unexpected appointment for the War Veterans ministry — if the claims are true.
Repeated efforts yesterday to ascertain the veracity of the claims with senior government officials did not bear fruit.
But speaking to the Daily News, Sibanda himself chose to say he had refused to “betray the people of Zimbabwe” by re-joining Zanu PF, adding that he had “great respect for Mutsvangwa and war veterans” — a reason that made it impossible for him to even think about going against the interests of the beleaguered minister.
“I would never have accepted that because Zimbabweans would never forgive me. I can assure you that I will not betray the struggle. I could have taken advantage to lambast Mutsvangwa but I did not do that because I respect him, as he is a war veteran.
“I respect all war veterans and we need to work together as war veterans to save our people. We don’t need to be fighting amongst ourselves as war veterans,” Sibanda said, without speaking directly about Mugabe’s alleged offer to him to become the new War Veterans minister.
But a more forthcoming Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said Zanu PF had indeed asked Sibanda to take over from Mutsvangwa, both as War Veterans minister and chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).
“Mugabe wanted Jabu to be minister and chairman of war veterans but he had to apologise to Mugabe first, which Jabu turned down. If you want me to be specific, they invited him to discuss the offer.
“We are aware of their (Zanu PF) strategy which is being initiated by the G40.
“That is why they are now talking about the so-called (Zanu PF) hearings that they are currently conducting, but our people know that this is a charade and a temporary reprieve they are being offered just to stabilise the Zanu PF ship.
“Besides, Zanu PF is finished anyway, and there is no chance that they will bounce back. They are down and out,” Gumbo said.
Another source claimed in an interview with the Daily News that Sibanda had allegedly received a call from top Zanu PF officials on Wednesday last week, inviting him to go there and meet with Mugabe.
Rather incredulously for a man who was supposedly earmarked to become a Cabinet minister, the source claimed that the former war veterans’ leader had even been sent bus fare via Ecocash to travel from Bulawayo to Harare for the alleged meeting with the president.
“When he arrived, he refused to check in at Rainbow Towers Hotel, where he had been booked, opting to meet the president’s emissaries at a local garage where they briefed him that the president wanted to appoint him War Veterans minister.
“Jabu was supposed to apologise to the president for the bedroom coup statements that he made, after which he was supposed to address a media conference lambasting Mutsvangwa and his group, and declaring that he had taken over as war veterans’ chairman,” the top Zanu PF official claimed.
Sibanda is now part of former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s ZPF, which is set to clash head-on with Zanu PF in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
The Zanu PF bigwig who spoke to the Daily News added that Zanu PF officials had allegedly been left frustrated by developments, as they had wanted Sibanda to address the media before his televised address to the nation last Friday, in which he would have lambasted Mutsvangwa for misleading war veterans who ended up being battered by riot police.
“This was a G4O strategy to isolate Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but it backfired in spectacular fashion. We do not know what he said to the top officials exactly. But they (G40) never expected Jabu to turn Mugabe down.
“Now they have concluded that there is a possibility of Mujuru joining hands with Mnangagwa, after Jabu refused to blast Mutsvangwa, so they are looking for other means to counter that,” the party bigwig said.
Meanwhile, the Zanu PF women’s league resolved at a marathon meeting in Harare on Wednesday to have the suspensions of all party officials, including MPs linked to Mujuru, lifted unconditionally before ZP is officially launched.
Women’s league political commissar Mabel Chinomona confirmed that the women had met at length, but said she did not have the details of the resolutions that were made as she had left early.
“I did not take a long time in the meeting because I had to see a dentist, so I am not aware of what was discussed in there, but you could ask the league’s spokesperson,” Chinomona said.
But another league official confirmed the development and also said they had resolved to take charge of the 21st February Movement celebrations scheduled for Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo today — after receiving reports that Team Lacoste officials in the province were working to embarrass the First Family at the event.
“You are going to notice on Saturday (today) that the league will be taking an unusually active role at the event that is traditionally a youth thing.
“We do not want to leave anything to chance because the youths on the ground have expressed fears that the celebrations could be scuttled.
“We do not trust the Masvingo provincial executive as well as some youth league leaders who are said to be hiring people to cause chaotic scenes at the celebrations,” the official said.