Mugabe, war vets in 2018 poll deal

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has struck a 2018 election deal with war veterans amid reports the Joint Operations Command (Joc) brought pressure to bear on the Zanu PF leader to meet their demands. This is despite the fact that the freedom fighters are still backing Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential bid in the post-Mugabe era, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.

By Elias Mambo

War veterans, including chairman Chris Mutsvangwa (left), at a meeting in Harare with President Robert Mugabe in April last year.
War veterans, including chairman Chris Mutsvangwa (left), at a meeting in Harare with President Robert Mugabe in April last year.

Joc, which brings together the army, police and intelligence chiefs, has been key to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s survival by working behind the scenes to prop up the party, while blocking a democratic political transition. Senior Joc members have also perennially campaigned for Mugabe and Zanu PF.

The deal comes on the backdrop of a massive fallout between Mugabe and the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWA), which had withdrawn its support of the nonagenarian ahead of the crucial 2018 elections.

In a hard-hitting communique released in July last year, the war veterans announced they would not campaign for Mugabe after accusing him of neglecting the masses and betraying the values of the liberation war.

The war veterans also said Mugabe had failed to “use the resounding mandate given to him in the 2013 general elections”. They said Mugabe had failed to address the economic problems affecting Zimbabwe and to deal with corruption among other issues.

Although Mutsvangwa would neither confirm nor deny that war veterans had struck a deal with Mugabe after behind-the-scenes negotiations, he confirmed that former liberation fighters would now back the ageing leader.

Mutsvangwa, however, said the war veterans would continue fighting the G40 faction, which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe, a confirmation that the association was solidly behind Mnangagwa’s presidential bid.

He said the war veterans had excellent relations with the army, which Zanu PF insiders say was supporting the former liberation fighters at a time they were publicly opposing Mugabe and his wife.

The army is loyal to Mugabe, but is also supporting Mnangagwa’s presidential bid.

“As chairman, I want to assure the public and the national body politic that there are no contentious issues between ZNLWA and the patron President Robert Mugabe,” said Mutsvangwa.

“By the same token, war veterans are delighted with the ever-warming relations with the First Family as a whole. We also take this opportunity to reassure all and sundry that we have excellent relations with the entire defence and security establishment. General (Constantino) Chiwenga enjoys our utmost trust and confidence.

“We are of shared military progeny as young men sacrificing only life for freedom and independence in the 1970s. The bonds of blood are too strong to be torn asunder by mahumbwe (child’s play) type trickery of G40.”

Zanu PF insiders say following behind-the-scenes talks, Mugabe would meet war veterans later this month where he is likely to commit to address issues pertaining to their welfare.

War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube has confirmed the meeting.

Insiders say the ex-combatants’ leadership met in December last year after which they wrote to Mugabe demanding, among many other issues, the removal of Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere from the commissariat department. Kasukuwere is a key member of the G40 faction.

“Following the demands, some senior Joc members held meetings with Mugabe over the war veterans’ demands concerning the need to revamp the commissariat,” said an official, adding: “The countrywide demonstrations and vote of no confidence passed by nine provinces against Kasukuwere have worked in the war veterans’ favour.”

Joc officials reportedly told Mugabe he would need the war veterans to campaign for him in next year’s elections as they live among the electorate.

The officials say Kasukuwere may be moved from the commissariat department as a way to appease the war veterans.

Meanwhile, Mutsvangwa told the Independent that the G40 faction would soon lose relevance.

“The inescapable reality is that the G40 is facing its waterloo. It has already been a torrid season with the (Jacob) Mudenda inquiry, the vote of no confidence by 10 party provinces and the thorough drubbing of the G40 pretender (Mutero Masanganise) by chairman (Ezra) Chadzamira in Masvingo party provincial elections. The end is nigh for the G40 cabal and its diabolic power grab pretences,” he said.