HARARE - As the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections get closer, life is getting harder for President Robert Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF, as angry war veterans and the country’s re-energised opposition keep battering them on all fronts.
This became even clearer yesterday when the disgruntled former freedom fighters escalated their war against Mugabe, vowing to take the nonagenarian and the bitterly-divided ruling party to court for defying a court order which barred them from appointing a new Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) executive.
On the other hand, the looming prospects of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru working together ahead of 2018 is spooking Zanu PF to no end, with the former liberation movement now fighting tooth and nail to “kill” the mooted pact.
The daring move by the disaffected war veterans to take Zanu PF to court comes after it emerged that the troubled ruling party had clandestinely appointed a new ZNLWVA executive late last year which was invited to attend the party’s annual conference which was held in Masvingo in December.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, fearless ZNLWVA spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya, promised that war veterans would not fold their hands while Zanu PF “worked to engineer” more divisions among ex-combatants.
“As we have always said, we were given the mandate to lead the war veterans by legitimate war veterans. We are not going to watch what is happening quietly. Among other things, we are going to approach the courts soon, definitely,” he warned.
When the ZNLWVA approached the courts in a similar case early last year, Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene and her team were barred from masquerading as either the interim or substantive leaders of the former freedom fighters.
High Court Judge, Justice Happias Zhou, also interdicted Chimene from issuing any press statements on behalf of the ZNLWVA and its leadership.
However, Mugabe and Zanu PF allowed Chimene to represent war veterans at party gatherings even after that ruling, something that was viewed as a flagrant disregard of the courts and an endorsement of the phantom Chimene faction.
ZNLWVA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda also weighed in on the matter yesterday accusing Mugabe of “not respecting the rule of law”.
“Zimbabwe is a constitutional State and it’s so sad that the ruling party is failing to obey its own and the country’s Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.
“We now have a constitutional crisis because the ruling party doesn’t believe in the rule of law. Yet, at his swearing-in ceremony, Mugabe promised to uphold the Constitution although he is now worryingly failing to do what he promised,” he said.
Matemadanda added that some top Zanu PF officials were also “bizarrely happy” to see ex-combatants divided.
“Zanu PF is neglecting war veterans. They managed to bribe some war veterans so that they would attend the Zanu PF conference.
“But look at the rest of our colleagues, they are struggling to get food and don’t have money to pay school fees for their kids. We have Cde Chinx (Dickson Chingaira) who is not feeling well, but the party is not helping him, which is so sad.
“They want to divided us so that we become weaker, but we are saying to them that we know every trick they want to use to destroy us and this won’t work,” he thundered.
The former freedom fighters have over the past two years been caught in the middle of Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars, in which they have thrown their weight behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
This saw their chairman Chris Mutsvangwa being fired from both the Cabinet and Zanu PF last year, while many of their other top leaders have also been banished from the ruling party, in addition to being hauled before the courts.
A meeting last April to try and mend relations between the war vets and Mugabe failed to resolve the stalemate, with the former freedom fighters setting difficult conditions for the nonagenarian, including that he ditches alleged Generation 40 (G40) kingpins such as Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and the ruling party’s national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Zanu PF is facing even more heat on the opposition front, as Mujuru and Tsvangirai work fervently behind the scenes to form a coalition alliance ahead of the 2018 national polls.
Mujuru who now leads the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), is even trying to enlist Tsvangirai’s help as her party bids to wrest control of the Bikita West parliamentary seat which fell vacant after Munyaradzi Kereke was incarcerated for 14 years for the rape of a minor last year.
And after ZPF announced that Mujuru planned to hold a joint rally with Tsvangirai in the constituency, to drum up support for their candidate, Kudakwashe Gopo, both Zanu PF apparatchiks and State media have gone into overdrive trying to portray the scheduled mega rally as causing divisions in both the MDC and ZPF.
But ZPF elder, Rugare Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday that there was no need for Zanu PF to speculate on the two parties’ planned coalition as this was now almost finalised.
“They know that only those that are mad will vote for them under the circumstances and when it comes to Bikita West, we are already working with the MDC and other parties to ensure that Zanu PF loses.
“So, we are not worried about what they say at all. We know Zanu PF is scared of our unity and our working together because they know this is the beginning of their end as they have nothing to offer to Zimbabweans who know that it is Mugabe who authored their problems.
“Zanu PF must better get ready to face the coalition because we are not going back and we will announce it to the people when the time is ready,” Gumbo who, together with Mujuru and others were sacked from Zanu PF in 2014 on untested charges of attempting to topple and assassinate Mugabe, said.
Meanwhile, analysts have also said the Bikita West star rally evokes bad memories for Zanu PF which lost the Norton by-election late last year to its former chairman for Mashonaland West, Temba Mliswa, who had enlisted the services of the MDC and war veterans, leading to the former liberation movement suffering an embarrassing defeat.
The defeat further strained relations within the warring ruling party which is feuding to determine Mugabe’s succession, where the G40 faction is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa ascending to the throne.
On its part, the MDC said yesterday that Zanu PF had “every reason to fear a tag team of Mujuru and Tsvangirai”, as it was becoming increasingly clear that Mugabe and his party “would never win a free and fair election”.
“Zanu PF is damaged goods. They are running scared because of the real possibility that the regime will be facing a united opposition in the 2018 elections.
“In fact, let me categorically and emphatically state here and now that Zanu PF will receive an unprecedented and humiliating electoral annihilation in 2018.
“The MDC will definitely form the next government after the forthcoming elections. There’s absolutely no doubt about that,” MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, told the Daily News.
Political analysts said yesterday that it was clear that Zanu PF feared the prospects of seeing Tsvangirai and Mujuru working together.
“Zanu PF has every reason to be worried of the success of a coalition between Mujuru and Tsvangirai. These two are the real deal as far as challenging Zanu PF is concerned.
“Mujuru brings in the liberation credentials that Tsvangirai needs for the smooth transfer of power. Zanu PF knows very well that Tsvangirai has been winning but was denied political power through ‘positive rigging’. This was because he was regarded as a traitor,” analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said.
Other analysts have repeatedly said a united opposition fighting with one purpose can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the increasingly frail nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
Mujuru also said late last year that the country’s mooted grand coalition — which is set to be in place this year — would bring to an end Mugabe and Zanu PF’s long rule.