War vets: From heroes to villains

HARARE - On Wednesday, a section of former liberation war fighters descended on the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare to demonstrate against War Veterans minister, Tshinga Dube, for airing views which they believe are inconsistent with Zanu PF’s constitution.

Dube stirred a hornet’s nest recently by openly validating the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association’s controversial call to have President Robert Mugabe name his successor to end the brawling in Zanu PF over his succession.

The protests, even though poorly attended, brought to the fore the fault lines among the former freedom fighters going back to history when they could not execute the liberation struggle as a single force, instead fighting as Zanla and Zipra — being the military wings of Zanu and Zapu.

After independence in 1980, the cracks could not mend with the war veterans getting themselves embedded in Zanu PF and Zapu, instead of being apolitical, until the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987. Even then, Wilfred Mhanda, aka Dzinashe Machingura, and a few others had broken ranks with their colleagues to form the Zimbabwe Liberation Platform.

More cracks were to emerge because of the infighting in Zanu PF, with war veterans disenchanted with Mugabe’s rule joining other political formations, among them the National People’s Party (led by Joice Mujuru) and MDC (under Morgan Tsvangirai). Others have become enmeshed in the warring Team Lacoste and Generation 40 factions in the ruling party.

This is indicative of the absence of a strong ideological grounding that should have created a rallying point for the war veterans.

All along, we thought they were driven to take up arms by the desire to free their countrymen from colonialism. That narrative is now hard to believe because yesterday’s liberators are morphing into monsters and mercenaries concerned about themselves only.

It started with the ex-combatants demanding to be paid money for their contribution during the armed struggle, which became the genesis of the on-going economic meltdown after the Zimbabwe dollar lost more than 70 percent of its value on November 14, 1997 in what became known as the Black Friday.

Ever since, the war veterans have been upping the ante — demanding one thing after the other — thus forcing Mugabe to admonish them at his Manicaland youths interface rally.

Yesterday’s demonstration against Dube for speaking his mind, never mind his alleged factional leanings, is indicative of the ex-combatants’ repugnance against the very freedoms they fought for.

If political parties and countries can amend their constitutions to adapt to their changing circumstances, why should it be a crime for Dube to raise an issue that, though not consistent with Zanu PF’s constitution, many people feel is contributing to the uncertainty in our body politic?

After all, the same war veterans pushed for the amendment of Zanu PF’s constitution to allow for “a one-centre of power”, whatever that means.

In our humble opinion, the former liberation war fighters are losing the high moral ground they used to command at independence by pandering to selfish and short-term agendas that are aimed at feathering their nests.

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