By Staff Reporter
Harare, February 20, 2016 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Friday fumed over endless infighting within his Zanu PF party, telling the factions to “shut up” as he also tore into his under fire War Veterans Minister Chris Mutsvangwa for organising a war veterans meeting he said was illegal.
Speaking live on ZBC TV on Friday during a spur-of-the-moment state of the nation address, Mugabe admitted tribalism was rife in his party adding it was also fuelling the current tensions.
Mugabe, under pressure to demonstrate leadership as party hawks tear each other apart, vowed to act on factionalism but did not state how.
“So those who are saying ah we belong to this faction or that other faction, I say to them shut up, you belong to Zimbabwe first and foremost, whatever you might say,” Mugabe said.
“Shut up and let us not hear any divisive voices from you. The G40s or what you call Lacoste or whatever, shut up!”
G40 (Generation 40) comprises younger but adventurous party politicians rooting for the First Lady to succeed her 92-year-old husband while Team Lacoste is fronted by ambitious Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe’s address was spurred by events on Thursday in which hordes of war veterans who convened for an address by Mutsvangwa were dispersed by anti-riot police who used water cannons and also threw tear gas at the ex-combatants.
The incident, viewed a culmination of worsening factional tensions within the beleaguered party, invited strong reactions from the war veterans and opposition forces.
Angry war veterans openly criticised the First Lady Grace Mugabe for causing the current unrest in the party through her anti-Mnangagwa comments and summary suspensions on party rivals.
The war veterans crisis meeting came in the wake of a vote of no confidence jointly passed on chairman Mutsvangwa, wife Monica and two other members who form his war veterans executive by party political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
This ignited tensions in a party already torn apart by infighting.
Mugabe came hard on Mutsvangwa whom he said should explain himself for organising the meeting and also apologised to the former fighters for the misfortune.
“People war veterans were naturally hurt or at least they had this water from the cannons down their bodies, let alone the teargas in their eyes, we regret that they suffered this but the man to blame is their chairman and their minister and ofcourse he will have to answer as minister why he has done it without authority,” Mugabe said.
“When there is this negativity and clandestine, completely surreptitious way of doing things, one wonders whether Minister Mutsvangwa is one and all with the rest of us.”
Hours after his followers were gassed by anti-riot police, Mutsvangwa came out guns blazing, threatening to sue the police for visiting a “Marikana” on war veterans.
He was referring to the 2012 police massacres on 34 of the striking mine workers in South Africa.
During his Friday address, Mugabe was flanked by Vice Presidents Emmmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.