Some Zimbabweans say President Mugabe and war veterans may be on a collision course following the president’s appeal for calm in the party last week.
Despite the president’s attack on War Veterans Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa for allegedly convening an allegedly illegal meeting of the former liberation fighters, which was crushed by the police, war veterans appear to be backing the minister said to be an ally of Vice President Mnangagwa, who is reportedly eyeing the presidential post.
In an informal street survey in Harare today, most interviewees said indications are that President Mugabe is no longer in control of the party and war veterans will take advantage of that to side step him.
One of the residents, Abel Patsikadova, said war veterans are now clearly backing Mutsvangwa despite President Mugabe’s remarks last Friday that his party will take stern action against the minister who had organized an indaba to discuss the president’s succession and related issues.
“I doubt very much that the war vets will listen to (President) Mugabe and what he says. The time has gone now in Zanu PF when (Mr.) Mugabe's word was like a Bible. Now if you look at what they are doing, (President) Mugabe comes up saying one thing then the next day we see another thing. People are now looking after their own interests because they know (President) Mugabe will be gone soon so it’s hard to continue listening to him.”
Another resident, Tongai Machemedze, said it appears as if the war veterans do not want the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, to succeed him.
“It appears that the war vets will not listen to Mr. Mugabe. War vets seem to be seeing (First Lady) Grace Mugabe dictating through Robert Mugabe and they are saying ‘no we can't take that’ hence the Sunday press conference where they said they will not heed to what Mugabe said.”
Independent political analyst, Ernest Mudzengi, said it was now clear that the war veterans will have their way but warned that what is of importance is how far their defiance will stretch before they are expelled from the ruling party.
“The war vets as indicated by their leadership that is under Mutsvangwa have said they will stick to their leader. The implication is that President Mugabe in his speech insinuated that Chris Mutsvangwa be removed as war vet leader because he said he misled the war vets but they said they are standing by him so far.
“What they have done at all if they are still in total control of the body is to defy what the president said. The issue at stake now is whether or not the defiance will last the stretch.”
Victor Matemadanda the secretary general of the war veterans told a press conference on Sunday that they still recognize Mutsvangwa as their legitimate leader and not Mandi Chimene, who kicked out the War Veterans Minister, claiming that he was backing Mnangagwa’s alleged attempts to topple the president.
Meanwhile, the war veterans have won an interim order from the High Court barring Chimene, who is also the Manicaland Resident Minister, from acting on behalf of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans’ Association.
Chimene was declared chairperson of the war veterans by another rival faction that is believed to be aligned to the so-called Generation 40, which is fighting the alleged Mnangagwa faction group, known as Team Lacoste, to succeed Mr. Mugabe.