HARARE – War veterans are set to meet today in Harare to discuss Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crisis amid a tense atmosphere, as defiant opposition parties yesterday staged a demonstration, despite a warning by the police.
The ex-freedom fighters’ indaba, initially scheduled for last Friday, was postponed after law enforcement agents refused to sanction it.
But the High Court struck down the police ban in a ruling that emboldened the war veterans and was viewed as a brave stand by the courts in the face of threats to the judiciary.
Apart from deliberating on the political and economic rot, and their poor welfare at the hands of President Robert Mugabe’s administration, the former liberation fighters also want to map the way forward on the rising public anger over the country’s myriad of problems including high unemployment, crippling cash shortages, collapsing health sector, deteriorating civil service and grinding poverty.
Yesterday, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya alleged that by blocking their meeting, the police were advancing the interests of the Generation 40 (G40) — a Zanu PF faction opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendency to presidency.
“We know that the police are not keen on us holding this meeting because they are being directed to do so by the minister who has proved to us that he is G40, otherwise there cannot be any other reason why they are blocking us. Chombo (Home Affairs minister Ignatius) did not direct them to do so,” he said, without disclosing the identity of the alleged minister.
“We became suspicious when they called us to a meeting where they interrogated me demanding to know what any other business and related issues we wanted to discuss during our meeting,” Mahiya said.
“This was in apparent reference to the letter of notification we had written them to say we would also want to discuss any other issues that might arise. What business is it to them? They are panicking on behalf of a Zanu PF faction that we want to discuss politics?
“We only hope that they will respect the court order and allow us to hold our meeting. I know they are reasonable, so I would not want to speculate on how they will react. We will cross the bridge when we get there,” he added.
In their High Court application, the war veterans cited superintendent Trustworthy Makunike, in his capacity as the officer commanding police Harare Central District, police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri and Chombo, as respondents.
The ex-freedom fighters argued they had approached the court on an urgent basis after realising that the law enforcement agents planned to thwart their meeting and were prepared for a repeat of February last year’s event.
High Court Judge Alfas Chitakunye, who was deciding the case brought by the war vets, said the official police notice issued last week was invalid, and therefore suspended.
“The meeting that the applicant (Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association) intends to hold on March 23, 2017 from 10am to 3pm at the City Sports Centre, shall proceed as notified,” ruled Justice Chitakunye.
“That the applicant ensures that at the meeting there will be no procession, marching or toyi-toying. The first respondent (Makunike) and the police force be and are hereby ordered to refrain from disrupting the meeting referred to . . . above.”
The war veterans have become emboldened by rising public anger over economic hardships including severe cash shortages, high unemployment and delays in payment of public workers.
Last year, the war veterans were bashed and tear-gassed by police in Harare for holding an “unsanctioned” meeting following strained relations with their patron, Mugabe.