Following President Robert Mugabe’s threat to punish veterans for demanding that he leaves office, one of Zimbabwe’s top war veterans, Douglas Mahiya, has been arrested.
Mahiya is publicity secretary for the National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, NLWVA. It was NLWVA that issued a stinging critique of Mugabe last week, including aspects of his leadership from when he got the top Zanu-PF job more than 50 years ago, leading to his governance since 1980 independence.
The statement was particularly critical of the state of the economy at present, and condemned police treatment of some recent demonstrators who were beaten up for protesting about the lack of cash and late payment of civil service wages.
The veterans’ statement also said they would not support Mugabe in the 2018 elections and questioned why any foreign investor would put money into Zimbabwe while he was still in control.
The unsigned statement by the NLWVA caused considerable dismay in parts of Zanu-PF and, finally, a week later, Mugabe tackled them at a meeting of supporters at the party’s headquarters, where he was accompanied by his wife, Grace, who now has her own camp of supporters who are against the veterans.
The state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, quoting “sources close to the matter”, said Mahiya was picked by up by the police on Wednesday afternoon.
Members of the Mahiya family said police surrounded their house in Chitungwiza, a small town adjacent to southern Harare, and isolated his wife and several children for several hours. Police moved away from the family residence after Mahiya gave himself up to police.
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba has since confirmed that Mahiya was with police at the Harare Central Police Station.
In a public address earlier this week, Mugabe reminded his audience what had happened to rebellious war veterans during the war.
“During the war, we would punish defectors severely … we kept them underground like rats, in bunkers … it is the same thing we are going to do here in independent Zimbabwe. They must taste jail,” Mugabe said.
Details relating to the charges Mahiya could be facing were not immediately known.
Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, who spent much of the war period studying medicine in Sweden, described last week’s communique as “treasonous and traitorous” and said the statement could be the work of a “fifth columnist”.
The Herald said it understood government had already engaged its security apparatus to establish the origins of the communiqué and those behind its circulation.
Alex Magaisa, a prominent political Zimbabwe analyst and long-time legal academic in the UK, said that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 73, who was at the meeting Mugabe addressed, was in serious political trouble, and predicted he could be expelled into the political wilderness.
He referred to former vice-president Joice Mujuru, 61, who was expected to succeed Mugabe until she was cut out of the race, accused of many extraordinary offences, mostly by Grace Mugabe, and then expelled from Zanu-PF nearly two years ago.
Magaisa pointed to remarks made by a provincial minister Manditawepei Chimene at Mugabe’s meeting.
“Crocodiles must stay in the river where they do not threaten people. We don’t want them in the party; let them go to the river where they rule, not in the party.”
Mnangagwa is often known by his war-time name, crocodile, or Ngwenya.
“…Unless he pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, the future of Mnangagwa’s political career in ZANU-PF looks bleak,” Magaisa said.
“Surely he can see that his boss has lost confidence in him? Why else would he lay him out for attack by junior members of the party while he does nothing to protect him? Like Mujuru, he is still holding on to a forlorn hope that things will come right, but the reality is Mugabe is done with him and is ready to throw him under the bus.”
Magaisa said that although the top military men largely supported the war veterans, many were at the end of their careers and might find themselves out of “contract” and replaced by younger men, eager for promotion.
– African News Agency (ANA)