By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
Harare, February 18, 2016 – ANTI-RIOT police on Thursday broke a planned meeting by hordes of war veterans angered by the recent ouster of their leaders and what they find to be the First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s growing contempt of the liberation war fighters.
A Zanu PF faction linked to the controversial first lady last week passed a vote of no confidence against the current Chris Mutsvangwa led war veterans executive and installed Manicaland provincial affairs minister Mandi Chimene as interim chair.
This incensed the former fighters who on Thursday called for a meeting that was set to be addressed at the City Sports centre by Mutsvangwa and other war veterans leaders.
But a heavy police deployment at the venue ensured the meeting did not proceed, igniting chaotic scenes in which police were called to fire water cannons and teargas to disperse the veterans.
Among other issues the war veterans demanded was the immediate resignation of Kasukuwere and that Grace Mugabe stops her attacks on them.
Grace, in her public rants against party enemies, has insisted war veterans were just as good as any other Zimbabwean who never fought the war.
The over 200 former fighters who converged at the sports facility also demanded Mutsvangwa’s reinstatement as their leader.
They were adamant the former Zimbabwe ambassador to China could not be removed by an “ordinary” person who is not a commander. This was in apparent reference to Kasukuwere.
The struggle veterans also took umbrage with the police decision to break their meeting after they had initially been cleared to conduct their meeting at the Zanu PF headquarters.
Some of the female war veterans insisted they were only prepared to listen to President Mugabe and not his wife who is widely believed to be godmother of the infamous Generation 40, a Zanu PF faction fronted by Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo, who is Higher and Tertiary Education Minister.
When police broke the meeting, some war veterans passed out whilst some who survived were left questioning if this is the country they fought for.
“We are surprised to understand this; how did we sell this country out? How can teargas be fired on us like that! Our own children being sent to fire tear gas at us! Is this what we went to war for!
“We won’t leave this place until we are addressed by the President himself. We will spend the whole night here until he comes and addresses us,” said one veteran who identified himself as Ndaidakufiranyika.
Another one who identified herself as Shingirai Takauya Netsika said she was shocked that police “wanted to kill us” when they were only there for a peaceful meeting.
“We were invited to this meeting, which we heard about on radio,” he said.
“We came here from afar and we borrowed the money we used for transport. Why did you invite us when you knew you wanted to kill us?
“We were told on radio that we should come here. Today, it is us who fought the war of liberation, but we are being killed. We came to talk to our father (Mugabe) but they want to kill us,” she said.
Another war veteran who refused to be named said they will resist Kasukuwere, who is accused of attempts to elbow out pro-Vice President Emmerson Mngangagwa veterans leaders from the current race to succeed Mugabe.
“Kasukuwere wants to kill us like he has done to the party and the country. Pasi naKasukuwere (down with Kasukuwere),” she said.
“I fought the war being bitten by lice. But they are putting people who never went to war in positions of higher authority. We say enough is enough! It’s like we are still under Ian Smith (last colonial government leader before independence). We will fight!” she said.
Another war veteran who preferred to be known as Masanganomatema said it was high time Zanu PF split.
“Zanu must split. Kasukuwere should be removed from the party. He has insulted us saying that we are not educated; if it is possible then he and Amai (Grace) should leave and form their own party.”
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said what was happening to the once larger than life liberation war fighters was a “taste of their own medicine”.
“They have tasted their own medicine. This is what the majority of the Zimbabweans have always been feeling. Zimbabwe is under a black Smith,” he said referring to Ian Smith.