HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has come out guns blazing, warning Zanu-PF factions “G40” and “Lacoste” to “shut up”, and at the same time telling War Veterans Minister Christopher Mutsvangwa he has a case to answer for organising a meeting of the former freedom fighters.
In a televised address to the nation on Friday night, Mugabe mostly attacked Mutsvangwa, warning him that “action would be taken where action needed to be taken”, saying that he (Mugabe) and other party members would not “take exception to that”.
“This irresponsible manner brings the name of the party and head of government into disrepute. People are beginning to wonder whether, in fact, we are governing properly in accordance with the rules.”
Mugabe said Mutsvangwa would answer for it as a Cabinet minister.
Riot police on Thursday descended heavily on the war veterans, teargassing and using water cannon on them, as they gathered in the capital to discuss factionalism in the ruling party, particularly the “Generation-40” faction, or “G40”, which is reportedly fronted by Mugabe’s wife Grace.
Police spokesperson senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba said the dispersals were made not because the war veterans had convened at the meeting venue, but because the meeting was unsanctioned and the venue owner had not authorised use of the venue.
After police had dispersed the crowd on Thursday, Mutsvangwa addressed a press conference where he equated the “police heavy-handedness” to the August 2012 shootings at a platinum mine at Marikana, near Rustenburg in South Africa.
“These are the war vets who were subjected to such treatment by the state. We equate such brutality to the South African Marikana scenario,” he said.
“Clearly to see police bringing out paraphernalia of violence and beating up war vets, who are unarmed, the best they had were cellphones, and who were coming to attend a meeting, it’s equivalent to the Marikana scenario because the state has gone berserk.”
However, Mugabe, who turns 92 on Sunday, apologised to war veterans who were on the receiving end of police action, but said Mutsvangwa deserved it.
“Let Mutsvangwa not blame the police, he deserved the teargas, but the rest did not deserve it.”
He said he had not been aware of the Thursday meeting with the war vets, despite him being their patron, and neither were the ministries of home affairs, defence, and state security in the know.
“I don’t know in what capacity he invited war veterans. Even if he invited them as chairperson, he is still minister. And a demonstration against what? A government in which he is minister? He has channels in government to express his grievances and suggest to us what measures to take. But for him to call a meeting which we knew nothing about?”
What prompted the fracas was Grace’s Mugabe’s rally in Chiweshe – about 70km north of Harare – on February 13, when she took a swipe at war veterans, saying they should not continue “bossing around” that they fought in the liberation war.
Even Zanu-PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere – who at one time labelled war veterans drunkards and taxi drivers – told the rally there was nothing much special about war veterans which they could go about parading.
Before that, after attending the Zanu-PF politburo on February 10, Zanu-PF women’s league secretary for finance Sarah Mahoka attacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, telling him to deny those aligning themselves to him if he was sincere that he was not leading any faction to succeed Mugabe.
Mahoka warned the VP, who has been loyal to Mugabe for more than 60 years, that he would meet death if he did not come clean on his ambitions to succeed Mugabe.
Most former liberation fighters are reportedly backing the “Lacoste” faction, led by Mnangagwa.
In the televised address, the seemingly tired Mugabe quashed issues to do with tribalism, saying everyone, despite their political clout, affiliation, and tribe remained a Zimbabwean.
This came after songs that praised the Zezuru tribe as “unconquerable” were played at Grace’s Chiweshe rally – televised live – to which the “G40” faction leaders danced and clapped hands. – ANA