By Prince Tongogara
President Robert Mugabe, in his political twilight, finally rewarded the liberation war veterans through creating a cabinet ministry specifically to look at their welfare despite the fact that surviving veterans are now less than 20 000 nationwide.
The war veterans under the command of the late Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi in 1997 forced Mugabe to award them Z$50 000 gratuity each plus monthly pensions for life. They also demanded to have 20% of all land expropriated from former white commercial farmers.
However, this back down from Mugabe inversely strengthened his hand and control of this paramilitary grouping for his political expediency in future. The war veterans became the storm troopers who cowed opposition activists into submission during the bloody 2000 general election and subsequent 2002 presidential poll.
Mugabe then rewarded the war veterans by giving their leader, Hunzvi, a deputy ministerial post. Since then the war veterans have fought in the president’s corner whether in government or Zanu PF.
However, seventeen years later the war veterans were divided in its allegiance to Zanu PF leaders. Some remained loyal to Mugabe while some in the top leadership had switched allegiance to former vice president Joice Mujuru ahead of the party’s congress.
Mugabe who faced a political waterloo turned back for support from the remaining war veterans to like in 2000 decimate internal opposition.
Chris Mutsvangwa emerged from among the war veterans to lodge a spirited attack on Mujuru. He discredited Mujuru’s war exploits and accused her of ineptitude among other things.
Mutsvangwa’s actions were shocking as he was a junior minister in the same cabinet Mujuru was deputy president. However, decorum and protocol are the last things considered where political expediency matters.
The war veterans threatened to physically harm Mujuru and any of her perceived allies if they dared attend the Zanu PF congress. The threats effectively killed the careers of Mujuru and her allies for now.
Mugabe like in 1997 had once again to reward the main actors who foiled Mujuru’s political strategies to take over power at the congress.
Mutsvangwa and his wife, Monica, became the greatest beneficiaries of the realignment of political power in Zanu PF. They were both appointed to the central committee, politburo and reconfigured cabinet.
Mutsvangwa had earlier been strategically aided to land the powerful war veterans chairmanship after the outer of Jabulani Sibanda without even a disciplinary hearing.
Mutsvangwa was further elevated from deputy Foreign Affairs minister to a full cabinet minister responsible for War Veterans Welfare.
However, Mugabe could have been devious in Mutsvangwa’s appointment. Mutsvangwa will now report to himself at government level since he is the minister responsible for war veterans.
It remains to be seen for how long the war veterans will remain in Mugabe’s corner after the recent appeasement. It should be noted the ministry has no budget allocation in the 2015 budget as it was created as an afterthought long after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had presented his 2015 national budget to parliament.