By Jermaine Ndlovu
Bulawayo, February 24, 2016 – OPPOSITION Zapu President Dumiso Dabengwa says he was shocked President Robert Mugabe last week found cause to swallow his pride and apologise to a group of war veterans who were tear-gassed by police for organising an unsanctioned meeting in Harare.
President Mugabe came out on national television last Friday where he took time to lambast war veterans national chair and minister Christopher Mutsvangwa for convening the abortive crisis meeting.
Mugabe said none of the country’s security ministers, let alone him as war veterans patron knew of a meeting which was called following the purported ousting of the Mutsvangwa led executive by a group led by Manicaland provincial affairs minister Mandi Chimene.
Angry war veterans who had been dispersed by anti-riot police on Thursday blamed the war veterans fissures on President Mugabe’s wife, Grace whose recent public rants against party rival and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has inflamed current tensions within the beleaguered party.
Following the skirmishes, President Mugabe issued an uncharacteristic apology to his militant support base during an unexpected “state of the nation address”, something that has surprised his critics.
One of them is his former Zanu PF colleague and once home affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa who described the veteran leader as a man who does not apologise for anything in his life.
“I am actually shocked; this is the first time Mugabe has publicly apologised for any wrong doing ever in his life,” Dabengwa said, in an interview with RadioVOP.
“He has never apologised for the Gukurahundi massacres, Operation Murambatsvina, land reform and other state sponsored violence periods.
“Maybe it’s an issue of his old age which has made him appreciate that war vets are the people that fought the war and they are the people that made him President.”
The early 1980s so-called Gukurahundi atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces saw the massacre of an estimated 20 000 civilians who were loyal to former Vice President Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu by a North Korean trained army unit.
Mugabe said during the burial of Nkomo in 1999 that the massacres were an “an act of madness”. That was the furthest he could go in atoning for the killings.
Later during his rule, Mugabe also saw his government forcibly remove whites from the country’s productive farms, something which saw nearly a dozen whites die and farm workers displaced under his militant supporters while 2005 also saw homes destroyed in the ostensible bid to rid urban centres of illegal structures.
Dabengwa said that the Zimbabwe’s liberators were now a laughing stock in the southern African country after being embarrassed by the police force.
“It’s all as a result of failure by the government to look at how the war veteran’s body should be run; they are a laughing stock among the war veterans in southern Africa,” said the former Zipra intelligence supremo.
“They were not supposed to have been treated like that; they (government) should have sat down with the freedom fighters and hear what their grievances are.”