SWIFT action by state security agents averted a potentially explosive public clash between two feuding factions of war veterans in Bulawayo during the Heroes Day celebrations.
The former combatants clashed over which faction should represent t
he province during official proceedings.
The latest public outbursts by the former freedom fighters underline deep-rooted divisions in the war veterans association. The swift action by state security agents and Zanu PF provincial executive members at the Nkulumane Heroes Acre prevented a serious public clash between the two camps.
The Bulawayo chapter of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association is split into two groups after deposed chairperson Themba Ncube refused to recognise the new provincial chairperson, Thoriso Phiri, as the legitimate leader of the province.
Ncube alleges that Phiri was imposed on Bulawayo province by a committee comprising Dumiso Dabengwa and Retired Army Commander Solomon Mujuru that was tasked by President Mugabe to reorganise the war veterans association.
However, trouble at the Nkulumane Provincial Heroes Acre in Bulawayo started when Phiri, who was sitting at the high table, stood up to lay a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She was blocked by Ncube who rose from the public gallery where he was seated.
Ncube said he was the right person to perform that task. Efforts by the Zanu PF leadership to cool down Ncube failed as he insisted that he should lay the flowers on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Fearing a disruption of the day’s activities, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents, who were part of the protocol team, and the Zanu PF provincial leadership, convened a haste meeting by the sidelines and resolved that both Ncube and Phiri should not take part in the proceedings.
After the private consultations Ncube’s deputy, John Sibanda, was allowed to lay the wreaths on behalf of Ncube.
When interviewed by the Zimbabwe Independent after the incident, Ncube said he was still chairman and was in charge of Bulawayo province.
“I have asked my deputy John Sibanda to officiate on my behalf. There are some problems in the association that I cannot reveal to you at this moment but we will resolve them,” Ncube said.
Phiri also charged that she was still in control of the province and said she backed off to avoid embarrassing the government. “There is a problem that has to be sorted out, but as for now I am in charge and we did not want to embarrass the government on this occasion. That is why I backed off,” Phiri said.
Phiri and her executive were elected into office in controversial circumstances in March following a vote-of-no-confidence that was passed on Ncube over his participation in the Tsholotsho debacle.
Ncube commands a lot of support in the province due to his allegiance to former war veterans national chairman Jabulani Sibanda, who was dismissed from the association and the ruling Zanu PF earlier this year.