HARARE – Disgruntled former freedom fighters yesterday warned President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF “not to commit political suicide” by sidelining the country’s liberation stalwarts as the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections beckon.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Douglas Mahiya, also said it was “wrong, suicidal and a big miscalculation” on Mugabe’s part to contemplate thrusting the Zanu PF youth league at the heart of his 2018 election campaign.
Were that to happen, Mahiya warned further, Mugabe risked receiving a much bigger electoral defeat in next year’s watershed elections than he had got in the first round of the hotly-disputed 2008 presidential poll.
This comes as both Zanu PF insiders and analysts alike claimed earlier this week that Mugabe appeared to have turned to the youth league to lead his 2018 re-election campaign, amid growing fears of another Bhora Musango — rebellion by disgruntled Zanu PF officials and supporters as happened in the 2008 polls when the nonagenarian was rocked by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
“What they are doing is not sustainable because the youths that are attending the so-called interface rallies with the president are only going there because of the opportunities to loot national resources that are there, and that will not win them elections.
“Only war veterans who have the political ideology and revolutionary principle can effectively do mass mobilisation, especially in the rural areas because that is where we operated in during the war.
“I was in Chiendambuya, for example, and I can tell you that the people there will easily listen to what I say than any other person because I commanded guerrillas there,” Mahiya said.
“Youths should be politically conscious about the principle they stand for. They also need guarantees that they will get what they are being promised, otherwise they will end up like us who are now struggling to make ends meet yet we were also promised better lives when we were fighting for this country.
“They should be wary of losing their future to these so-called interface rallies where promises are made, but which will only benefit the likes of (youth league secretary Kudzai) Chipanga.
“Without the principle of equitable distribution of wealth, which was the major reason why we went to war, the rallies will only result in chaos,” the forthright Mahiya barked.
Zanu PF is currently sharply divided, with the camp which is rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, the Generation 40 (G40) faction, involved in a life-and-death tussle with the VP’s backers, Team Lacoste.
Before Mugabe’s nasty divorce with war veterans, the former freedom fighters had served as his and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence.
In 2008, Mashonaland East witnessed horrific violence which left an estimated 200 MDC supporters dead when Zanu PF, led by war veterans, went on a retribution exercise to punish people suspected to have taken part in that year’s Bhora Musango “subterfuge”.
The late revered liberation struggle icon and Zimbabwe’s first black military commander, Solomon Mujuru, was subsequently accused by Mugabe and other Zanu PF bigwigs of having engineered the president’s defeat in those polls by Tsvangirai.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later given wings by former Zanu PF bigwigs who are now in opposition ranks.
Mugabe is struggling to keep the deeply-divided Zanu PF together, with both insiders and analysts telling the Daily News last on Thursday that he was increasingly becoming more reliant on the youth league for his 2018 election tilt.
In May last year, the youth league organised a solidarity rally in Harare for him, which was dubbed the One Million-Man march, and which insiders said was the nonagenarian’s “test drive” of the youth and women’s league mobilisation capacity ahead of next year’s make-or-break elections.
Zanu PF national youth league secretary, Kudzanai Chipanga, told the Daily News earlier this week that the nonagenarian’s ongoing rallies — organised by party youths — were meant to show that they had the capacity to mobilise successfully for his re-election next year.
“While we agree that members of the main wing of the party have a role to play, theirs should be a complementary one, to support their children (the youth league).
“And while parents support their school-going children materially, it becomes abnormal when they begin to demand that they should write the examination on behalf of their children,” the fast-rising and increasingly influential Chipanga said.
Amid the escalating tension in Zanu PF, as the brawling party factions intensify their mindless bloodletting, the youth league also its rallies were meant to show that Mugabe remained their “sole” presidential candidate for next year’s elections.
“The rallies we are holding are for the president to meet the youths, not for senior party officials to settle their political scores. So, they (Mugabe’s lieutenants) must know that they cannot approach this programme with dirty hands.
“We understand there are some members who want to settle their scores at our rallies but let it also be known to all and sundry that these platforms are not meant for people to clear their names if they have cases to answer, or to discipline anyone.
“They are not meant to say so and so is guilty of this and that. No, we want to meet our president, period!” Chipanga told the Daily News.