Zanu-PF’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, last week came face to face with irate war veterans in Marondera, the provincial capital of Mashonaland East, where he had gone to stop raging factional fights on Friday.
Kasukuwere had called for a crisis meeting of the Mashonaland East Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) to avert a disaster, triggered by suspensions and counter-suspensions that rocked the organ last week.
An emergency meeting he held in Harare with the provincial top brass earlier in the week had failed to reach a settlement as warring parties took hard-line factional positions.
On Friday, Kasukuwere led an entourage of senior politicians from Mashonaland East to find dozens of screaming war-veterans waiting for him at the party’s provincial headquarters.
Trailing him were Politburo members, namely: Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi; Health and Child Care Minister, David Parirenyatwa; and Industry and Commerce Minister, Mike Bimha, who are reportedly fighting against party provincial chairman, Joel Biggie Matiza.
They were accompanied by Senate president Edna Madzongwe.
The ex-combatants demanded to be part of the meeting despite them not being members of the PCC.
Kasukuwere has not had the warmest of relations with them ever since he labelled them “drunks and taxi drivers”.
Backing the war veterans were a number of youths, ready to spring into action if requested.
As soon as Kasukuwere arrived in his official Range Rover Vogue vehicle, the irate group made their intentions known by clearly expressing their displeasure over his remarks against war veterans.
Some even came close to manhandling him as he strutted into the hall where the meeting was to take place.
But a seemingly unmoved Kasukuwere paid a deaf ear to their noise and hackling and quietly walked into the hall. The hall door helped to close out the war vets’ jeers and yells.
But the furious war vets were not done yet.
They proceeded to the main entrance were they repeatedly banged the door, demanding to be admitted into the meeting until it became too much for the security men manning the entrance hall.
Not knowing what to do, the security opened the doors and the former freedom fighters poured in, much to Kasukuwere’s irritation.
The Local Government Minister was forced to vacate his seat at the high table in order to address them in the most polite way.
In the presence of a seemingly mystified Sekeramayi, who is the secretary for the welfare services for war veterans, war collaborators and ex-political detainees and restrictees in the Zanu-PF Politburo, Kasukuwere explained that the meeting was meant only for PCC members and kindly asked them to leave.
Sekeramayi never attempted to involve himself as he remained a spectator from the VIP seat.
The restless ex-combatants finally obliged, but not before asking Kasukuwere why they had been invited if they were unwanted in the first place.
The minister said: “This was a case of lack of proper communication for which we are very sorry.”
As one after another left, some still angrily shouted.
“Munofanira kuziva kuti zvigaro zvamunazvo makazviwana nekuda kwema war vets akarwira nyika. Mukada kuvarasa panomuka chimoto pano (You must remember that the positions you are occupying came about because of the war vets’ sacrifices to liberate this country. There will be war if you try to dump us),” shouted one elderly veteran walking with the aid of a rod. He claims he got the permanent injury on his right leg in combat during the war.
Another one shouted: “Ndozvamatumwa naPresident (Robert Mugabe) here izvi? Kana zvakadaro musangano wacho ngauparare (Is this what the President sent you to do to us? If that is the case, then let this party be destroyed.”)
A special interest group in the revolutionary party, the ex-combatants are aggrieved by relentless attacks by young Turks linked to a shadowy group identified as Generation 40 (G40), which hopes to renew Zanu-PF from within.
Kasukuwere is seen as the face of the group although he denies it.
G40 is reportedly interested in blocking Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s possible ascendency to presidency.
Chaperoned by their sharp tongued chairman, Chris Mutsvangwa, the easily agitated war veterans have taken sides with Mnangagwa.
In Mashonaland East, they are rallying behind a key Mnangagwa ally, Matiza, whose earlier suspension triggered the current crisis.
Whether or not the war veterans’ actions contributed to Kasukuwere’s decision to reinstate his perceive nemesis, Matiza, could not be determined.
But the political commissar, who calls himself vatete vemusangano (the aunt of the party) maintained in an interview that the decision was not influenced by anything else but the party’s constitution.
“We were here only to communicate to the people that they have to work together and respect the party’s constitution. We needed to stress the importance of unity among members and that is what we achieved. We hope they will start working together from now onwards,” he said.
But his words are unlikely to soothe the anger within the war veterans’ camp.
The Financial Gazette recently reported that members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association are planning a massive demonstration in Harare to voice their displeasure with members of G40 in the first clearest sign yet that, unlike former vice president, Joice Mujuru, who was stampeded out of office without a fight, Mnangagwa’s backers will not take it lying down.
Meanwhile, the party’s leadership in Masvingo has defied the reversal of the suspension of acting chair, Paradzai Chakona.
Chakona was not recognised at the annual conference of war collaborators held in Masvingo recently and was denied a slot on the official programme.
He was shown the boot a fortnight ago on allegations of fanning factionalism, imposing candidates and running the party “like his tuck shop”.
But barely a week later, Kasukuwere, appeared and annulled the suspension.
Still, Kasukuwere’s pronouncement has fallen on deaf ears in Masvingo, a perceived stronghold of Vice President Mnangagwa.
The drama, a reflection of deep-seated divisions in Zanu-PF, unfolded after the director of ceremonies at the function introduced the party’s acting chair to the podium to give a solidarity speech, much to the amazement of stone-faced senior party members who whispered something to him.
He then rushed to withdraw the invitation and apologised for the mistake long before Chakona, who was seated in a tent for ordinary guests, had arrived for the event.
“Kwenyuwo hakuna mapenzi here? Kwedu ndini rimwe benzi racho (Are there no mad men were you come from? Where I come from, I am one of them),” the director of ceremonies said, jokingly.
Neither Chakona nor Nenjana gave the solidarity speech on behalf of the party.
Chakona was also not seated at the high table with Provincial Affairs Minister Shuvai Mahofa, Masvingo Urban legislator Daniel Shumba, war veterans’ deputy minister and guest of honour, Tshinga Dube, among others.