Zimbabwe is one of a few countries in the region whose independence came through the barrel of the gun, the significance of the Lancaster House negotiations notwithstanding. There came a time in the course of the war when it became evident to the recalcitrant minority white regime of Ian Douglas Smith that the cost of war was no longer sustainable.
That concession, grudging though it was, came through the gallant sacrifices of the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who offered their blood for our freedom. That legacy is priceless and cannot be taken away from them.
It is in that spirit that we applaud President Mugabe’s announcement on Friday that he would early next month meet the former freedom fighters for a frank discussion of the challenges they face. After all he is their patron, and a freedom fighter himself.
There has been palpable tension lately, among former freedom fighters following their aborted meeting earlier this month in which the police used tear gas and water canons to disperse war veterans who had gathered for the meeting. It turned out later that the meeting had not been officially communicated to the party hierarchy, especially the Presidency.
The ugly scenes of war veterans scurrying for cover drenched in that irritating water provided good copy for sections of the media, white former farmers and Western diplomats who nurse an abiding grudge against war veterans for their critical role in the execution of the Third Chimurenga, particularly the historic fast-track land reform programme beginning in 2000. There were deprecating celebrations that the Zanu-PF Government was turning against its own children and a central constituency in its electoral victories.
Most crucially, what was being celebrated was a glaringly divided Zanu-PF splitting the loyalty of the war veterans right through the middle, with the prospect of some of them joining axed former Vice President, now Zimbabwe People First leader, Dr Joice Mujuru.
With all opposition political parties in the country now lying comatose, detractors had reason to celebrate what they perceived as a catastrophic implosion in the governing party, with the prospect of breathing a new lease of life into Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T and the rest of its break away formations.
We believe a meeting between President Mugabe, the Zanu-PF hierarchy on the one hand and war veterans on the other, should provide a platform for the two sides to resolve once and for all disputed areas and explain any inadequacies in communication and the welfare of the war veterans. This is not like a meeting of adversaries, but comrades who should engage each other in a spirit of amity and genuine concern about the issues involved.
Previously the President managed to stop the unproductive successionist disputes between so-called G40 and Team Lacoste to allow the governing party to speak with one voice and focus its energies on sourcing food for the people. There was a feeling the party was getting distracted. And war veterans seemed to be taking sides, but both sides using the President and the First Lady’s names when convenient to push their agenda.
Since the President intervened and put an end to the contest, the party has been able to show cohesion in sourcing and delivering grain to the most needy sections of our population, now estimated at close to 4 million people.
We therefore believe the President has the capacity and authority as the First Secretary of the party to lay the law and resolve any issues that might be affecting the war veterans.
It is a dispute which can only work against the interests of both the party and Government. The dispute doesn’t benefit Zimbabwe but those who resent a strong and ideological focused liberation movement such as Zanu-PF.
It is no secret that the regime change agenda has not altered in the least. It can only mutate and assume different shades and leadership personalities but the ultimate goal remains unchanged and solid — that Zanu-PF must fall and Mugabe must go. And 2018 is not far away and everyone smells blood.
Zanu-PF can ignore this ever present reality at its own peril.
The sooner the dispute with war veterans is resolved, the better for the governing party, Government and the people of Zimbabwe and the region.