IN an unprecedented and daring move, war veterans yesterday came out guns blazing against President Robert Mugabe, describing him as a manipulative, self-centred and failed dictator who has betrayed the ideals of the liberation struggle — creating an explosive confrontation amid rising social unrest.
Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association also declared they had withdrawn their support for Mugabe, whom they accused of promoting factionalism to entrench his rule, at an emotionally charged meeting in Harare yesterday.
The war veterans also accused Mugabe of mismanaging the economy and called him to quit saying an economic turnaround can only occur in his absence.
The former freedom fighters released a hard-hitting and emotionally-charged communique with echoes of their 1975 Mgagao Declaration — Mugabe’s springboard to the Zanu leadership in 1977 after the ouster of Ndabaningi Sithole — at the end of a meeting where they condemned Mugabe’s continued abuse of state power. They said Zimbabweans should be allowed to enjoy the rights and freedoms without being threatened or labelled sellouts, suggesting they were supportive of the growing popular protests as a result of the economic failure, poverty and suffering.
“We therefore abhor instances were instruments of state power have been used to brutalise private citizens who share our desire to exercise our constitutionally entrenched rights and freedoms,” said the war veterans.
“We categorically reject the notion that those expressing views different to those that we hold are agents of foreign powers and therefore enemies of the state,” they said, adding such thinking “contemptuously implies that Zimbabweans lack capacity to rationalise issues, think through their problems and take decisive action”.
The former freedom fighters said Mugabe should be reminded that “respect must not be equated to fear”.
They said Mugabe had over the years abandoned the ideals of the liberation struggle, entrenched dictatorship and misrule.
“We note with concern, shock and dismay the systematic entrenchment of dictatorial tendencies, personified by the President and his cohorts, which have slowly devoured the values of the liberation struggle in utter disregard of the constitution, as demonstrated by the deliberate neglect and abandonment by the party president of the masses who are the foundation upon which the liberation war was fought and won,” the war veterans charged.
The former freedom fighters said they would not support Mugabe in the 2018 elections and declared the group’s national chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa, fired from cabinet, the ruling party and parliament, will remain their leader.
War veterans national political commissar Francis Nhando called on Mugabe to resign describing him as a failure and thus a hard sell.
“We are saying this country will only go up when Mugabe steps aside because his management is no-longer respected by anyone, including his own ministers,” said Nhando.
“If he announces his retirement date the economy will improve because there is nobody who will invest his money where the future is uncertain. Nobody will lend money to a 92-year-old and if he does not step aside, 2018 will be the most difficult year to campaign for us as war veterans.
“How do you campaign for someone you do not like and who does not like you either. The relationship between us as war veterans and the president has broken down.”
The war veterans said they had thrust Mugabe into leadership, suggesting they could also remove him.
“When Mr Robert Mugabe arrived in Mozambique, he walked in to join those of us who were already armed and prosecuting the war as political soldiers. He was not the president of the party, but we made him so thinking he was one of us.”
For the first time, the former freedom fighters openly accused Mugabe of eliminating his opponents during the bush war.
“This depicts the President’s lifetime character of always manipulating situations and delineating others from vantage position for his personal interests,” the war veterans said.
“The President’s systematic elimination of those in the struggle’s leadership and his continued outfoxing of colleagues in leadership after independence up to this day is unmistaken (unmistakable). The current situation whereby the party is fragmented with formations so-called factions is clearly the President’s project again to outfox his peers in leadership.”
Mugabe, the war veterans said, has “always survived on divide-and-rule tactics in order to protect his party presidential position each time he has felt threatened”.
The war veterans said the fact that Mugabe was readmitting some officials expelled from the party alongside former vice-president Joice Mujuru bears testimony that he was using factional fights to prolong his stay in power.
“Typical of the President he has mobilised those of his Gamatox nemesis to boost his G40 project, rewarding them with all sorts of gifts, including ministerial posts despite the charges originally made against them like treason,” the they said.
The war veterans said Zanu PF was strong in rural areas because of their influence “yet the President thinks we have no right to challenge his bigoted political views”.
“His persecution, decimation and expulsion of war veterans from the party under his watch are legendary. From the days of the liberation struggle history records that his egocentric approach to party and national politics has led to the demise of many a party member on flimsy grounds. We say not anymore. Never shall we allow him such free reign,” they charged.
The war veterans blasted Mugabe for calling them “dissidents” and suggested he did not regret the Gukurahundi massacres where more than 20 000 unarmed civilians were killed by the military in state-sponsored purges.
“Labelling of peaceful war veterans as dissidents induces in us a sense of shock, dismay and revulsion in light of the history of the 1980s. It will be recalled that our fellow war veterans and masses in the western regions suffered brutal purges which only the Unity Accord pacified,” said the war veterans.
“Particularly worrisome in this context is the fact that, whilst the man has dismissed the sad period as a ‘moment of madness’ such language belies his insincerity in the Unity Accord.
“He (Mugabe) should be extending an honestly remorseful regret over this foul deed, yet he appears to extol this as some macabre virtue. His continued resort to genocidal language should worry every right-thinking citizen as to his true nature. This is unacceptable to the memories of those who perished during this time”.
The ex-combatants said Mugabe “should be reminded that he remains the major beneficiary of the national war effort at every stage, including the Unity Accord”.
Mugabe, they said, has used his leadership to build a patronage system around himself “which has turned into a personality cult”.
They also bemoaned growing corruption and Mugabe’s failure to bring to book corrupt officials. They mentioned a number of scandals in parastatals, including Zesa’s inflated power generation projects, as evidence of his failed leadership.
“The above instances demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the party leader has absolutely no clue as to the difference between public funds earned from taxation of the people and private individual income,” the war veterans said.