The spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Douglas Mahiya has come out guns blazing accusing Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo of allegedly doctoring a letter circulating on social media claiming that war veterans chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa, was groveling at President Robert Mugabe and asking for forgiveness.
The letter started circulating a day after President Mugabe held an indaba with the war veterans in Harare on Thursday to try and find common ground as the factional fights in the ruling Zanu-PF party intensify.
Mr. Mugabe at 92, is the world’s oldest serving president and has stated that he will stay in his post “until God says come’” and has thus far made no clear indication as to his preferred candidate for succession, creating an ongoing and intensifying power struggle.
There are allegedly two factions in the ruling Zanu-PF party - Team Lacoste backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and another called Generation 40 led by the party's Young Turks and enjoying the support of first lady Grace Mugabe, Professor Moyo and party political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere. The majority of war veterans who met Mr. Mugabe a few days ago are said to be backing Mnangagwa.
The controversial letter is addressed to President Mugabe and allegedly written by Mutsvangwa.
In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Studio 7, Mahiya said, “That is the work of Professor Jonathan Moyo and his allies. If ever the national war veterans chairman wanted to do that, he would have given it directly to the president in secret and it would be up to the president to publish it or not.”
When he was fired by President Mugabe from cabinet, Mutsvangwa told the daily Newsday newspaper that after his “bitter” experience as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China where he was recalled under unclear circumstances, he now has a general loathing for assignments that solely depended on an individual’s discretion.
“I neither care for that Politburo post, nor indeed for the ministerial appointment,” Mutsvangwa said.
“So Norton constituency, yes; war veterans’ chairmanship, yes; Politburo and Cabinet appointments – I don’t’ really care. In fact, two days ago I asked His Excellency for the honour of dismissing me because I only came in to save the revolutionary ethos and not to be served.”
Mutsvangwa was suspended on allegations of convening a war veterans meeting without informing Mr. Mugabe, the war veterans patron. His wife, Monica, was also slapped with three-year suspension for allegedly undermining Mrs. Mugabe.
But the alleged letter shows a flip-flopping Mutsvangwa. It reads in part, “It is with a sunken heart, utmost sincerity and absolute humility that I throw myself at your feet to apologize profoundly to you personally Your Excellency, As the First Secretary of our Party, our Head of State and Government, Commander In Chief of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and the Patron of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, which fate has thrust upon me to be the National Chairman since November 2014, and also to your family, the Party of Zimbabwe as a whole, for all that I may have said or done to offend any or all of them, therefore, earning my current social and political censure and rancor.”
COMPLICATED WAR VETERANS/FIRST LADY RELATIONSHIP
In a clear sign that the relationship between the first lady and the war veterans remains complicated, the former freedom fighters had a resolution at the meeting that stated that party slogans must only seek to praise Mr. Mugabe and not his increasingly powerful wife who is also the ruling party's Women's League boss.
Mahiya said the move not to praise the first lady is not unique as Mr. Mugabe’s first wife, the late Sally Mugabe was not praised and given equal status to her husband.
Asked why war veterans are seeking to exclude Mrs. Mugabe now, Mahiya said, “It has been the norm since the period of the revolution, to have it that way, to us we had discovered that it usually brought about problems and disunity in the party (Grace Mugabe slogans). We still feel that if we do that the party will be more united than ever."
But who deserves a slogan in the party? Mahiya said, “The president not anybody else because this country came out of the liberation war. The president is sacred and it is only him and the forces that brought about independence … ZANLA and ZIPRA, and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo and not anybody else deserves to be mentioned in party slogans.”
One of the slogans the war veterans want dropped is "Munhu wese kuna Amai" which urges party cadres to back the first lady.
Mahiya reiterated another war veterans resolution that there is need for the party to dismantle Zanu PF’s powerful commissariat department headed by Local Government Minister Kasukuwere and replace it with one led by freedom fighters.
The war veterans are accusing Kasukuwere of engaging in corrupt activities and being a divisive figure who spends time expelling and suspending party members.
The resolution referring to this issue read in part, “The meeting resolved that the primary role of the commissariat department must be mass mobilization and political education of the party members and never that of expelling and suspending members from the party.”
The war veterans though appear to be on a collusion course with President Mugabe on some of their resolutions.
In February, Mr. Mugabe defended his wife, Grace, and Kasukuwere at the 30th edition of the 21st February Movement celebrations, which marked his 92nd birthday.
“We hear a lot of misguided party members attacking my wife and that is very rude. These people do not respect us. We know there are some youths who are being given dagga to demonize their leaders and we will not accept that. We also hear some people attacking Kasukuwere over the suspension of party members. You have to know that Kasukuwere has the right to execute his duties without fear or favor because he is the man on the ground to defend the party,” said Mugabe.
Mahiya though said Kasukwere must be relieved of his duties “because he does not understand the history that brought about independence … he must realize that we are the custodians of the party Zanu-PF as it is stated in the party constitution and party manifesto."
Efforts to get a comment from Moyo, the first lady or Kasukuwere were futile as they were said to be in a crucial Central Committee meeting.