PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday ducked explosive internal Zanu PF political issues raised by the war veterans at their no-holds-barred meeting at City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday.
By Elias Mambo
The war veterans raised serious internal political issues afflicting Zanu PF, among them the illegal suspensions and expulsions of party members, lack of ideological clarity in the party’s commissariat department, proliferation of slogans and derogatory songs to denigrate party members as well as the need to revamp the national disciplinary committee which they said was partisan.
This comes against the backdrop of a serious internal succession wrangle in Zanu PF pitting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and a group of young Turks, Generation 40 (G40), being fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The meeting also came after a number of party officials, including war veterans chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa, who has stood up to Grace and the G40 faction, were suspended or expelled from the party.
Giving feedback from the thematic committee meetings, Munyaradzi Machacha, who is a former director in the party commissariat department, said Zanu PF’s ideology “is derived from Article 2(11) of the Zanu PF constitution that Zanu PF is a socialist party and must remain so”.
He said: “There is lack of a clear party ideology because of factionalism in Zanu PF party. Ideology must be taught to all party leaders. We are also concerned with suspensions and expulsions that are now rampant in the party.
“Our national disciplinary committee has been suspending and firing people without bringing the issues to the central committee which is the highest decision-making body.
“We cannot have a disciplinary committee which plays the role of the police, the investigator, the prosecutor, the jury and the judge when they have personal interest in the issues.
“There is no unity and loyalty in the party … this is weighing on patriotism … lack of ideology is now causing factionalism and this is threatening to split the party. The party is in danger,” Machacha said amid wild applause and ululation.
In a thinly-veiled attack on Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, the committee on ideology said the party’s commissariat should focus on teaching the party’s guiding principales instead of suspending and firing members.
Machacha told Mugabe freedom fighters want Zanu PF to have people with a military background to be in the commissariat department.
He said war veterans were justified in their demands as it was the norm in several countries, including China, that the party commissar doubles up as the commissar of the army. Machacha reminded Mugabe of the statement he made in an interview with Radio Maputo in 1976 about the role of the military in politics.
“It was you, President, who said our votes must go together with our guns. … The gun, which produces the vote, should remain its security officer — its guarantor,” he quoted Mugabe as saying.
The war veterans also raised the issue of divisive slogans and songs that have fuelled factionalism in the party.
In what was seen as an attack on those using slogans that promote Grace, the committee on ideology recommended that “slogans should prop the name of party president and not a living person who is not the president and that if new slogans and songs are to be used, they must be vetted and approved by the central committee, like what used to happen in the past.”
At a rally addressed by Grace in Chiweshe in February, the Women’s League danced to a song Zezurus unconquerable which was widely criticised as a divisive song along tribal lines.
Another war veteran, Tawanda Chipato, told Mugabe that Zanu PF has been infiltrated by the enemies when he presented the resolutions on the threats to the party thematic committee.
“The party is under serious threats because it has been infiltrated. They started by using the opposition then it failed. They used non-governmental organisations and that strategy did not work. Now they have infiltrated the party by using members of Zanu PF and those machinations will not work because we are the custodians of the party,” he said.
In a direct response to Mugabe, who last weekend told the war veterans that they were a mere affiliate to Zanu PF, Chipato said: “President, we are stockholders of Zanu PF and those who are now running the party are stakeholders.
Stakeholders can get out of the party, but as stockholders, we cannot go anywhere else.”
The war veterans also raised issues to do with their welfare where, among other things, they complained about the non-payment of school fees. They also demanded investment opportunities in mining and agriculture so that they are empowered.
However, Mugabe skirted around crucial issues and decided to dwell on government matters and the need for discipline. But he warned war veterans to stop his succession debate.
He, however, assured them that government would resolve their welfare issues.
“It was my idea to invite you … after realising the tiff between us since (time of the late Chenjerai) Hunzvi’s leadership to the present day leadership … to meet so that I understand how you are living since the liberation struggle up to this day,” he said. “The war veterans’ demands will be looked at depending on what Finance minister (Patrick Chinamasa) will say.”
Mugabe also blamed sanctions saying: “We are in a difficult position due to sanctions … but things are easing up.”