War vets factions battle for control

Nqobile Bhebhe

THE fight to control the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association (ZNWVA) has taken another twist with a new “non-partisan” splinter group saying that existing factions are not led by true liberation fighters.

But Zanu PF immediately shot down the new group, arguing that Jabulani Sibanda, who is allegedly leading violent campaigns in rural areas, is the country’s only true leader of the ex-combatants.

The formation of the new splinter group brings to three the formations that claim legitimacy over the war veterans’ body. 

Currently, one faction is led by Sibanda and another by Joseph Chinotimba – both fierce supporters of President Robert Mugabe who is the patron of the country’s ex-combatants association.

In 2008 another group which suffered a still-birth – the Zimbabwe National Association of Liberation War Veterans Cadres — was mooted by disgruntled veterans over the way the association was being administered.

The proposed “non-partisan” group of war veterans is under the chairmanship of Retired Colonel Basten Beta.

Beta told the Zimbabwe Independent last week that his association will be “the real” liberation fighters’ representatives since the country has not had a true war veterans association since 1980.

“Since 1980, there has not been a true war veterans association….all two (sic) current groupings are subscription-driven,” said Beta. “However, this new non-partisan association does not require anyone who participated in the struggle to pay subscription and be a card-carrying person to be a member.

The fact that one went to the bush means they are a war veteran.”

Asked how they would bring together the existing factions, Beta said: “if they are true war veterans they would not have problems joining us.”

Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo on Wednesday said the party only recognised the Sibanda-led faction.

“This was made clear at our conference in Mutare last year that Zanu PF recognises Jabulani Sibanda as chairman of war veterans,” Gumbo said. “The president told us that he cannot be patron of several factions, hence the party only supports Sibanda.”

Sibanda was given the platform to address conference delegates.

Mugabe has in the past repeatedly urged the factions to unite and work together, pointing out that divisions will hamper the party’s efforts to rebuild.
The war veterans’ association split last year following the expiry of Sibanda’s five year-term as chairman, but he got the backing of some veterans for another term.

Other war veterans led by Joseph Chinotimba opposed Sibanda’s term extension and claimed chairmanship of the organisation. The two factions subsequently organised separate congresses.

Sibanda was retained as chairman in Mt Darwin, but Chinotimba’s formation failed to hold a congress in Chinhoyi.

In a statement this week Beta said: “In an effort to unite all war veterans, the coordinating committee is now finalising consultations with all stakeholders in order to form a new non-partisan organisation which will represent all war veterans.

“The current confusion and conflict within war veterans is caused by politicians who want to use war veterans for personal political gain,” he said. “The new organisation will represent all war veterans regardless of their political affiliations by striving to improve their welfare, and give them recognition, dignity and respect for liberating and serving the country.”

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