War vets tension escalates

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War veterans secretary-general Victor Matemadanda speaking during a meeting held at Raylton Sports Club in Harare on July 21. Pic: Shepherd Tozvireva.

THE Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWA) leadership is set to meet in Harare next weekend to deliberate on the possibility of holding an extraordinary congress next year to address factional divisions that have rocked the organisation in the aftermath of the July 30 general elections.

The meeting is reportedly expected to seal the fate of the association’s embattled chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa, who has fallen out with sections of the membership.

Senior members of the association told the Zimbabwe Independent that the meeting was called by Mutsvangwa’s deputy Headman Moyo and ZNLWVA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda.

The two have been locked in vitriolic verbal exchanges in the past few weeks in a vicious turf war that has assumed factional dimensions.
Fault lines emerged in the association when Mutsvangwa employed his trademark razor tongue to criticise top businessman Sakunda Holdings founder Kuda Tagwirei, who is widely believed to be sympathetic to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.

Chiwenga harbours presidential ambitions and is reportedly fighting to wrest power from President Emmerson Mnangagwa. According to ZNLWVA insiders, Mutsvangwa — who calls himself a Mnangagwa loyalist — is now facing ouster from the association, which is being engineered by some of his lieutenants sympathetic to the Vice-President, among them Moyo and Matemadanda.

“There is going to be a meeting of members of the association in Harare next weekend. The main objective is that the association wants to have an examination of the state of affairs. It is too dangerous to leave things as they are. Some are actually proposing that we should bring forward the congress to 2019 from 2022,” a senior war veteran said.

“There are some more militant members of the association who want Mutsvangwa to be immediately removed from the position in a vote of no confidence and be replaced by Moyo. Some are however saying Matemadanda should actually be the chairman,” the ex-combatant said.

Mutsvangwa, who could not be reached for comment over the past week, is resisting the ouster on the basis of a 2016 High Court ruling which pronounced him the legitimate leader of the association until the next congress due in 2022. At the time he obtained the court order, Mutsvangwa was fighting for control of the association with leader of a splinter group Mandi Chimene. But his current nemesis is adamant his days at the association’s helm are numbered.

“Mutsvangwa is definitely going. We know he is banking on the court ruling but he forgets that we were also a party to that ruling. The ruling does not stop us from passing a vote of no confidence or call for an extraordinary congress to solve problems affecting the association as he shall see soon. He can still be removed with due processes spelt out in the association’s constitution. The only person who likes Mutsvangwa now is the President. He behaves like he is the President’s first born child, but the President is for everyone,” a war veteran based in Mashonaland Central province said.

But Mutsvangwa’s backers in the association are not going down without a fight as they are defending him with their lives.

“The association has been affected by Zanu PF factionalism which is being engineered by some corrupt hidden hands. It has been brewing for some time.

Mutsvangwa is with the President, he does not stare quietly at offenders. He can be friends for anyone except for national interests’ threats. Such people have no permanent friends while Matemadanda is, as his name suggests, has an axe and can be in anyone’s hands,” a member of the ZNLWVA national executive said.

Contacted for comment this week, Matemadanda said: “I don’t want to talk about those things at the moment, please spare me.”

Some war veterans are reportedly pushing for the return of the association’s former chairman, Jabulani Sibanda, who is being earmarked to take over as national commissar. The position is currently occupied by Chiredzi-based farmer Francis Nhando, who is reportedly being targeted for ouster for being a Mutsvangwa adherent. Nhando gave a resigned impression when contacted for comment.

“Our term is near completion. What we did was near-impossible when we went against (former president) Robert Mugabe. Having won that battle, we are not best set for the next fight. The comrades will be mistaken if they retain us. Political leadership requires changing and not fighting for survival. If you do not want to be removed, start your own company, not leadership of a national project,” he said.

Mutsvangwa has said that he is fighting a monopoly in the fuel industry because it is benefitting only one person. Mutsvangwa and some of President Mnangagwa’s allies are reportedly planning to construct a second fuel pipeline from Beira in a deal with South African fuel giant Mining, Oil and Gas Service. — Staff Writer.

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