BULAWAYO - Fearless former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, says Zanu PF knows that its days in power are numbered — adding provocatively that the brawling former liberation movement also knows that no one within its ranks can stand up and win against him in a political contest.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, the rabble-rouser who famously accused powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe in 2014 of having effected a “bedroom coup” at State House — a comment that he is still appearing in court for — also claimed that President Robert Mugabe had abolished the Zanu PF national chairmanship to stop him from taking over the post.
The irrepressible political dynamo also revealed more details of his alleged meeting with Mugabe’s emissaries in Harare last month, who allegedly tried to persuade him to take over from garrulous ex-combatant Christopher Mutsvangwa as war veterans leader and minister.
Sibanda — who was summarily expelled from the ruling party and as leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) in 2014, following his unflattering remarks on Grace — also said boastfully that he was a winner who always excelled in whatever he did.
“Everyone knows how well I performed when I was in Zanu PF and when I was leader of the war veterans,” he said, adding that this was the reason why he had held the “record” of being a provincial and national chairperson of war veterans, as well as Zanu PF provincial chairperson (for Bulawayo) at the same time.
“As you know, I was also the last person to be nominated Zanu PF national chairman at a time that I was the national chairman of the war veterans.
“Because they feared me, they abolished the position ... because no one could have stood up against me. That’s a fact,” he said.
Sibanda also reiterated claims that he turned down an offer from Mugabe for him to take over as War Veterans minister after the recent booting out of Mutsvangwa from Zanu PF.
“I was indeed invited to Harare to take over the War Veterans ministry and Mutsvangwa didn’t know anything about it. I refused for a whole night to take that position.
“I refused to undermine another war veteran. I refused to get to a position of advantage at the expense of another war veteran because that same war veteran was used to undermine the association,” he said.
Sibanda also tore into Mugabe — accusing the increasingly frail nonagenarian of betrayal and having abused war veterans over the past 36 years to stay in power.
Only last week, Sibanda said the time had come for long-suffering Zimbabweans to dump Mugabe and Zanu PF”.
Addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club, the firebrand war veteran said Zanu PF had lost both direction and its mandate to serve the nation, 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, he also said 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 Zanu PF, 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.
Speaking on the recent assault of war veterans in Harare by riot police, Sibanda said the 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.
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, the ex-combatants are also now bemoaning the brutal 2014 purge of Mujuru from the ruling party 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 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 with these malicious behaviours. Zimbabwe is being run based on rumour mongers,” he thundered.
Matemadanda said the fact that 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.