By Sij Ncube
Harare, August 08, 2016 – AS Zimbabwe marks National Heroes Day this Monday, genuine liberation war heroes and heroines who lie buried at the national shrine and elsewhere could be turning in their graves seeing the current state of the country’s economy under those they fought the struggle with.
The situation is further worsened by intense squabbling within the ruling Zanu PF party where President Robert Mugabe has abandoned the controls to concentrate all his energies on internal wars with a powerful war veterans faction affiliated to his party.
Mugabe’s turf wars with some of his former agent provocateurs have culminated in the arrest of some war veterans leaders who recently severed ties with their increasingly unpopular patron.
This followed his controversial expulsion of war veterans’ national chair Christopher Mutsvangwa as war veterans minister and lately from both the party and parliament for allegedly failing to show remorse after being accused of bringing the party into disrepute.
Mutsvangwa’s executive, comprising spokesperson Victor Mahiya, among others, have also been fired from Zanu PF while Mugabe’s hanger-on busy themselves in trying to investigate the authors of a damning communiqué which cast aspersions on the leadership of the Zanu PF strongmen.
After spending few cold nights in the slammer, the war veterans have, nonetheless, defiantly thumped their noses at Mugabe, accusing him of dictatorial and genocidal tendencies, setting the stage for bruising encounters in the faction-riddled Zanu PF ahead of future polls.
As if the fallout between Mugabe and war veterans is not enough, the military has been sucked into the fight as the Zanu PF leader faces a wave of protests from crisis-weary citizens angry over his misrule and general mismanagement of the economy.
But it is the fallout with war veterans, previously Mugabe’ shock-troops and avid campaigners, which has hogged the limelight as the country marks Heroes and Defence Forces Day in succession.
Insiders claim Mugabe’s scotched earth policy against the former freedom fighters has divided Zanu PF right in the middle with fears of a fully drawn out war as factions in the party continue jostling to succeed the veteran politician.
Zanu PF is thought to have two clear factions, Generation 40, said to be linked to Mugabe’s wife, Grace and another, Team Lacoste linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Mutsvangwa led faction of the war veterans is accused of plotting to replace Mugabe with Mnangagwa, a development which has greatly infuriated Mugabe and G40.
But be that as it may, analysts say there is no love lost between Mugabe and the war veterans, pointing out that it is the first time since independence in 1980 that Zanu PF has celebrated heroes and armed forces holidays so divided.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was fired from government and Zanu PF with Mutsvangwa and his gang cheering her ouster in December 2014, has come up in full support of her former tormentors in a clear sign that her former enemies are now her friends as they fight a common enemy.
At a rally on Saturday in Chinhoyi two days before Heroes Day, Mujuru challenged Mugabe to tell the world his nom-de guerre, before warning the 92-year-old Zanu PF strongman against causing the arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment of war veterans.
Mujuru charged that Mugabe never fought the war but a former political prisoner who stayed in Maputo while real war veterans fought the bitter struggle in the bush.
“War vets are not stupid; don’t mistake their silence for foolishness. Mugabe is deliberately turning holding cells and prisons into war vets houses while their places of leisure are now the courts.”
As if taking a cue from Mujuru, addressing thousands of MDC-T supporters after the party’s fourth demonstration in Masvingo the same day, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai said this year’s Heroes Day was being celebrated at a time Mugabe was persecuting former freedom fighters.
“We are supposed to be celebrating the work of the heroes who freed this country from colonial bondage. We are also supposed to be celebrating the heroes who sacrificed for the democratic struggle of Zimbabwe after the war of independence. But Mugabe is abusing war veterans, yet it is their holiday,” said Tsvangirai.
Political analyst Lennox Mhlanga said liberation war heroes such as former vice president Joshua Nkomo were probably turning in the graves with the way things were panning out in Zimbabwe.
“Almost all the ideals that they fought to preserve have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency,” said Mhlanga.
“The current leadership seems to ignore the cries of citizens demanding solutions to their problems. Their failures seem to be galvanising a new crop of protest groups and individuals that seem to have rankled the regime.”