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War Veterans Bluffing Over Mugabe Snub Threats

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By Malvern Mkudu

War veterans’ recent threats to dump the ruling party are an attempt to arm-twist President Mugabe into submitting to their political demands and are unlikely to be carried out by the former liberation fighters.

The costs of a Zanu PF ouster from power may be too awful to contemplate not only for Mugabe but for the war veterans themselves. A lot is at stake and when the time comes they will eventually find each other.

The war veterans held their meeting last week after police had initially sought to ban the meeting. It was a low key event compared to the meeting that President Mugabe attended last year in terms of attendance but it was well attended nevertheless.

The meeting questioned President Mugabe’s leadership pedigree and the veterans made it clear that Mugabe is now too old to lead and there should be leadership renewal in the ruling party. The leadership told members they must tell people in the rural areas to vote for a candidate of their choice based on merit.

This is a similar call made by some Zanu PF MPS in 2008 which resulted in President Mugabe’s shock loss to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the elections in 2008 which became to be known as “bhora musango”. This is a strategy aimed at forcing Mugabe to the negotiating table and consent to the wishes of the former liberation fighters.

The ex-combatants have not hidden their preferences for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over the reins after Mugabe. They believe that it is now time for the securocrats to take over the leadership of the country after civilians have been leading the party since the days of Ndabaningi Sithole.

Mugabe has rejected this suggestion and is now working with the youth league and other party members going by the name G-40 to frustrate the securocrats’ efforts to take over power from the “civilians” within the party. Mugabe says politics always leads the gun, a view the liberation fighters reject.

The war veterans are critical for the mobilisation of the rural vote, which is credited for keeping Zanu PF in power since the emergence of a more formidable opposition at the turn of the century.

According to the minister responsible for war veterans, Tshinga Dube, the war veterans hold 20% of the land which was seized from white commercial farmers past 17 years.

This means the war veterans have tremendous influence over farm labourers and other people who may be living within the boundaries of their farms. They indeed have the capacity to carry out their threats which will affect Mugabe and the party negatively.

If they carry out their threats not to campaign for President Mugabe, this could have damaging consequences to the Zanu PF leader. The question is; will they carry out the threats? What will they lose or gain if they carry out their threats?

Mugabe knows that the war veterans are bluffing and are only trying to get his attention to tilt the political scales in their favour. The stakes are too high for them to engage in political suicide and Mugabe knows the war veterans will not cut their noses to spite their faces.  A loss of power by the ruling party could result in bigger political and economic losses for the war veterans.

Although their welfare is guaranteed in the constitution, a new opposition government may change the constitution or not take their welfare seriously. A new government may carry out a land audit and reverse land allocations to the veterans. The little access they have to the patronage system may completely disappear under a new government. Worse still, a new government may decide to hold the war veterans accountable for many human rights violations that occurred since the 1980s.

Mugabe knows the war veterans are not willing to give up these privileges. The war veterans particularly the senior military bosses who amassed vast wealth and presided over human rights abuses are unwilling to lose power. He knows that at the critical time, all the party forces including the war veterans will coalesce behind the party to defend their privilege.

It is under these circumstances that one has to interpret the political meaning of the war veterans meeting and the resolutions the meeting produced.  This meeting was more of a lobby meeting to apply pressure to President Mugabe to relinquish power to the security block of the country rather.

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