On December 16 last year, a column in this paper expressed foreboding at the fate of a comrade by the name of Christopher Mutsvangwa. It had been presumed at that time, after an address by President Mugabe at the zanu-pf National People’s Conference in Victoria Falls, that the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was unhappy with Cde Mutsvangwa’s leadership and conduct as the leader of war veterans under the banner of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA).
Where President Mugabe slated haughtiness and pride, presumably marking Cde Mutsvangwa, he extolled the virtues of simplicity and humility exhibited by Cde Joseph Chinotimba, for example.
It did not take long for the party in Mashonaland West Province to suspend Cde Mutsvangwa.
This is how we reflected on the issue: “War veterans’ leader Cde Chris Mutsvangwa has been suspended by his Mashonaland West Province which is recommending that he be recalled from Parliament and expelled from the ruling party, zanu-pf. He is being accused of gross misconduct, disloyalty and treachery. His greatest crime, according to his accusers, is that of undermining President Mugabe after the abrasive war vets leader said something about ‘conflating and confusing the institution of marriage and that of the State’ which is reminiscent of what his predecessor Jabulani Sibanda once said.
“Now, is it not ironic that a person like Cde Mutsvangwa, who was actively involved in the Jabu regime would fall into the same trap and in particular began to feel that he had the power to do and say anything he wants apparently believing, as unfortunately as is usually done, that war veterans and in particular its leader hold some super power in this country?
“It has become apparent that Cde Mutsvangwa was getting drunk with power, and some accused him of worse, which made him to commit fatal errors of judgment, the one big error being behaving like a ‘super war vet’ and annoying everyone in the process, including, possibly the President of the Republic who at the just ended zanu-pf People’s Conference in Victoria Falls castigated arrogant leaders, including war veterans, and to illustrate his point singled out one Joseph Chinotimba as a model of humble fighter of the liberation.”
We stated that: “A point has to be made here and now just how Cde Mutsvangwa, most inadvertently, has brought ruin to himself and more worryingly to the whole institution of war veterans.”
The sense of foreboding we felt then was like the classic fear that the biblical Job had.
One day he would fall.
And the fall came, eventually and he mourned: “For a fear I feared and it meeteth me, And what I was afraid of doth come to me.”
Please take note that it was us that feared about Cde Chris.
We counselled him thus: “What must now happen is a lot of introspection on Cde Mutsvangwa’s part, and hopefully that he makes sense of what is happening around him which he may have missed in his power and what-not-else-with stupor.”
But it was never him – he never appeared to care about what would happen to him and he never really, from our observation, took time to reflect on his fate.
In fact, he did worse.
There is a fine line between bravery and foolishness.
Apparently, Cde Mutsvangwa gravitated towards, and no sooner crossed over to the latter.
Here he was openly pursuing politics that was dangerously factional and also confrontational the nadir of which was that heady meeting that he called war veterans for which ended nastily with the former fighters being pummelled a couple of weeks ago.
It was such a heady encounter that President Mugabe had to address the nation regarding the issue and the attendant factional wars that have engulfed the ruling party.
President Mugabe told the factionalists to, Stop It!
He had choice words for Cde Mutsvangwa for his brazen behaviour and how it had brought grief to the unwitting war veterans who he somewhat duped into believing that President Mugabe would address them.
Now he has been suspended for three years, along with Mrs Mutsvangwa.
It is hoped that this will have a sobering effect on Cde Mutsvangwa and that he takes discipline like the soldier that he is.
Sympathy for Chris
Yet it is only human for one to feel a bit of sympathy for Cde Mutsvangwa.
Whatever his foibles, he is a man who is passionate about everything he does and whatever destructive path, self- destructive path, it is clear that he was doing it with passion and conviction, if fatal.
And one of the main tragedies that Cde Mutsvangwa faced was having to wear two conflicting hats.
See, he was the head of a pressure group and he was the minister of a portfolio that was supposed to be pressured by the same pressure group he headed.
Whatever he did on the day he called for that illegal rally could be forgiven in the leader of a pressure group.
He could even break the laws of the country – and pressure groups are known to do that so that they bring to the attention of authorities whatever grievances they have.
But Cde Mutsvangwa is, was, a minister of Government sworn to upholding the laws and Constitution of the land, and President Mugabe at that State of the Nation Address alluded to that fact.
In other words, Cde Mutsvangwa was caught on tenterhooks.
Yet, as a soldier he should have chosen a better way to navigate this political minefield.
He should, in another life, and more specifically find the wisdom to see that fine line marking bravery and folly apart.