BULAWAYO - Firebrand former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda says the time has come for long-suffering Zimbabweans to dump President Robert Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF — sensationally likening the ruling party to “a house infested with lice”.
Addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club on Thursday, Sibanda said Zanu PF had lost both direction and its mandate to serve the nation, further savaging the former liberation movement’s mindless bloodletting and succession wars.
“The party has lost direction. First it was the Weevils (Zanu PF Johnny-come-latelies) versus the Gamatox (former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s supporters).
“Gamatox was removed and now it is Lacoste (embattled Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa’s faction) versus G40 (party Young Turks opposed to Mnangagwa). Once there is no political contentment in a party that is ruling, you can see that we are moving from a disaster to a worse disaster.
“The leading personnel in Zanu PF and government are very greedy people. They will kill to maintain their positions in power. They will rob to make themselves rich at the expense of the suffering masses.
“They pretend to care when they go for elections, where they will deliver beer and other things and the youths get drunk and carry out their orders when drunk,” Sibanda said.
Now a key member of Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First, Sibanda also said that Zanu PF now resembled “a house infested with lice”.
“It’s time we move forward and reorganise ourselves ... we need a new beginning, a new set up of things that will fight the evils that drowned this nation,” he said.
Sibanda also denounced the concentration of power in Mugabe’s office, a development that he said was detrimental to not just his party, but also the country — adding that the liberation struggle had not been about individuals, but the people of Zimbabwe.
“We are told in Zanu PF the centre of power is the president. We say that is a lie. The gallant fighters from Zipra and Zanla never fought the armed struggle so that one person becomes the centre of power.
“We fought an armed struggle with tenacity so that the people become the centre of power. The people are the centre of power because it’s the people who nominate the president.
“It’s the people that employ the president. Therefore, it’s the people that remove the president. So, the centre of power is the people,” he said.
Sibanda noted further that having leaders of political parties becoming centres of power was “one simple formula to a dictatorship and it’s not going to be allowed in future political seasons of our country”.
“Any party that has its president as the centre of power, that party will be refused by the people. It will be opposed by the people because they want to enjoy what they sacrificed,” he said.
Speaking on the recent assault of war veterans in Harare by ant-riot police, Sibanda said that unexpected development had demonstrated how “evil” the government was.
“That was one of the worst evils I have seen, but I was not surprised though because it was nothing new. The Zipra cadres that were wiped out by Gukurahundi died from shock, not bullets, because the weapons that they carried to free the country were being turned against them,” he said.
However, he said, former freedom fighters would forever be united, and those working to divide them — who he described as “factionalists” — would fail.
Sibanda has for the past two years been a thorn in the flesh of Mugabe and Zanu PF, having been expelled from the party for claiming that there had been a “bedroom coup” at State House, as First Lady Grace Mugabe’s influence has grown.
In a sensational claim last month, Sibanda said he had turned down an offer from Mugabe to rejoin Zanu PF and to take over as War Veterans minister from the former incumbent, Christopher Mutsvangwa.
Sibanda would have been a totally unexpected appointment for the War Veterans ministry — if the claims had come to pass. Tshinga Dube has since been appointed as War Veterans minister.
Speaking to the Daily News just before Mutsvangwa was fired, Sibanda said 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 taking up the offer.
“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.
ZPF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, corroborated the claim at the time, saying 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 (Sibanda) had to apologise to Mugabe first, which Jabu turned down. If you want me to be specific, they invited him to discuss the offer,” he said.
In the meantime, and as Zanu PF’s deadly infighting is getting more intractable by the day, with miffed war veterans becoming increasingly critical of Mugabe, they are also now bemoaning the brutal 2014 purge from the ruling party of Mujuru on what they say were “contrived” charges.
Speaking to the Daily News recently, prominent war veteran and one of Mnangagwa’s most loyal supporters, Victor Matemadanda, said bluntly and unexpectedly that Mujuru’s ruthless purge from Zanu PF had been “a grave mistake”.
He said “that error” had allegedly opened the door for “opportunists, cultists and rumour-mongers “ to lie and manipulate their way in the warring former liberation movement — to the extent that today the party and its leaders “do not know where they are coming from or going”.
“All of us in Zanu PF then reacted to what those people were saying about Mujuru. There were a lot of allegations against Mujuru and because it was coming from high offices, we believed the allegations. But we now see these people for who they truly are,” Matemadanda said.
He added that it was not just Mujuru who had been “hard done” by the party when she was hounded out of Zanu PF on untested allegations of plotting to oust and kill Mugabe, but also all her supporters as well who had similarly been chased out of the party.
“This is why every person who worked with Mujuru is now being approached and asked to return. They (opportunists) have not proved the allegations, yet they want the people back in the party, and it makes us wonder.
“These (opportunists) are the same people who suspended (former senior Cabinet minister and politburo heavyweight) Nicholas Goche, but all of a sudden now want to work with him.
“They must apologise to the nation for soiling all these people’s names. And because of all this, one can conclude that all is not well in the party,” the aggrieved Matemadanda said, adding that it was clear that Mugabe and his wife Grace were being misled by these opportunists.
“It is now up to the First Family to disassociate themselves from these malicious behaviours. Zimbabwe is being run based on rumour mongers,” he thundered.
Matemadanda said the fact that former war veterans leader Sibanda had been approached to become minister responsible for the former freedom fighters welfare, before he had been exonerated on the untested charges that his Zanu PF enemies had brought against him, showed that their allegations were baseless in the first place.
“They may think that they have fired us (from Zanu PF, and as leaders of war veterans), but they don’t have the capacity. No one holds the title deeds of the party. We didn’t go to war to follow anyone. We went to war to free Zimbabwe, we won the freedom and now must enjoy the fruits,” he said.