War Veterans Leaders Boycott Heroes Day Celebrations

WAR veterans leaders on Monday boycotted the National War Heroes Commemorations.

This protest was against the country’s president Robert Mugabe’s leadership.

It is the first time that fighter’s representatives have not attended the commemorations and comes amidst protests against Zimbabwe’s long time ruler.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe accompanied by his wife Grace, arrives at the National Heroes Shrine, to the cheers of thousands of party supporters.

His step was not as vibrant as in the past, as he inspected the guard of honour.

The country’s general’s looked on in solemn salute. The national heroes’ commemoration is one of the most poignant of Zimbabwe’s annual holidays.

It is a time when Zimbabweans gather to remember the thousands of people who died trying to free this country from colonial rule.

President Mugabe  laid a wreath at the tomb of an unknown soldier.

In his address he reminded the public of the sacrifices that these people made fighting to free the country.

He says, “Translation without unity there can be no progress. There will be division; quarrelling, fighting, violence, that is why protests do not pay because they end up being violent.”

President Mugabe, who swept to power in 1980, is facing a series of protests calling for him to step down.

He says the opposition has formed a coalition to cause Arab Spring Style unrests because they cannot unseat him at the elections.

But increasingly some of those voices are coming from former allies. The war veterans’ leadership say his leadership has become dictatorial and oppressive.

The war veterans’ leaders have boycotted the heroes’ commemoration event which is probably the most symbolic in the country’s history.

Relations with this group and their patron Mugabe are strained.

They say the party’s leaders have abandoned the principles of freedom brought about by the liberation struggle.  

Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Douglas Mahiya is one of the war veterans leaders arrested recently for insulting the president.  He has boycotted the celebrations.

Mahiya says, “We did not attend because its significance to us has lost value. In that we expected government and the party to walk the talk. Some of the people who are at heroes are really heroes others are not. It is because they are related to people in power.”

The country’s former fighters say they fight on.

“We have got to see before we die that that through independence and freedom is delivered to the door steps of every individual.”

Some war veterans attended the commemorations.

“I came here to remember those of us who did not make it through the war. But concerning the events with some of our war veterans, we are the same people, we just have different opinions,” says a veteran.

As Zimbabweans prepares to enter a second day of public commemorations, this time to honour the defence forces, their opinions have never been so divided.

SABC