President Mnangagwa and his deputies, Constantino Chiwenga (centre) and Kembo Mohadi (far right)
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War veterans blast Mnangagwa third term bid

As police ban meeting of war veterans faction

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8 mins read

Pamenus Tuso

Bulawayo—Police has drawn the anger of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) for cancelling its previously approved meeting planned for the second capital.

The meeting of the caretaker national war veterans’ body was meant primarily to discuss impending association elections reportedly slated for Victoria Falls at a date yet to be decided.

The cancellation—which the war veterans reported came following unspecified threats to the police—forced an emergency media briefing on Friday at which leaders of the association warned a group of Zanu PF members to stop mobilising for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s reported bid for a third term in office.

President Mnangagwa is serving his second and last term that is set to expire in 2028, after having been elected into office first in 2018 and re-elected at last August’s polls.

He was president in a transitional capacity between November 2017  until the July 2018 elections following a military-assisted takeover from the late Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwean constitution adopted in 2013 limits presidential tenure to two five-year terms that may be served continuously or intermittently.

At the press conference—which was also attended by veterans from ZIPRA, a parallel former anti-colonial military wing—the former liberation fighters condemned alleged violation of the constitution and citizens’ rights by the country’s political leaders too.

The national veterans’ association had on 1 March applied to hold the meeting at Stanley Square in Bulawayo today (16 March) between 10 O’clock in the morning and noon.

On 5 March, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer commanding Bulawayo West District, Chief Superintendent Nobert Ushe, approved the meeting in writing as required by the law.

Police clearance

The ZNLWVA Bulawayo provincial chairperson, Dominic Mhlanga, said he was yesterday afternoon summoned by police and verbally informed of the cancellation of the meeting.

“Police called me to their Southampton offices where they told me that we could not proceed with our meeting as earlier agreed.

“The police said they have been threatened to call off our meeting.  This a very sad development because resources had been put into organising the meeting.

“We fought for the rights of association and assembly but our rights are now being denied,” Mhlanga to journalists at the emergency press briefing.

Speaking during press conference, ZNLWVA national chairperson, Andrease Ethan Mathibela, vowed that the former freedom fighters would block any move to extend Mnangagwa’s term of office beyond 2028.

War veterans chairman Mathibela

Calls to have Mnangagwa serve a third term have been increasing in Zanu PF circles, with Masvingo province leading the agenda.

The ruling party’s activists have already coined the catchphrase “2030 vaMnangagwa vanenge vachipo” (In 2030, Mnangagwa will still be in power).

The President has, however, not distanced himself from the slogan.

“We have witnessed gross mischief by a few sloganeering misfits who seek to test the waters by conditioning the population to accept the setting aside of our sacred constitutional provisions, thereby attempting to usher in open-ended dynastic rule in Zimbabwe.

“If these recent events are anything to go by, then we should all be worried. Let them (those bidding for a third term) be warned,” said Mathibela.

The outspoken ZNLWVA leader has in the past vowed that, despite being affiliated to the ruling party, war veterans must hold government leaders to account.

“It doesn’t matter if I belong to a ruling party, when it comes to the expectations of the generality of war veterans, we want to hold the government accountable to achieve our expectations,” he told the online news outlet, CITE, in February this year.

Mathibela also rapped the judiciary for allegedly allowing itself to be manipulated by politicians and disregarding voters’ rights.

He was referring to the courts’ upholding of Sengezo Tshabangu’s claim to have the power to recall elected opposition legislators and councillors after the 2023 harmonised elections.

Tshabangu, who appointed himself the interim secretary general, emerged from the rank and file of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and caused the recall of numerous parliamentarians and councillors elected on the party ticket, resulting in by-elections that widened Zanu PF’s win to a majority in parliament.

“Those that swore to be custodians and honest arbiters of right and wrong have been anything else but just in their adjudication,” he said in apparent reference to some judges who have been accused of being captured by the executive arm of government.

“The right of the masses to vote has been substituted by the right to veto by a single individual (Tshabangu) who was not only ineligible to vote in the constituencies whose votes he nullified but is perhaps not even a verified registered voter himself after all.

“Our inalienable right to self- determination is sacrosanct and after we have agreed or disagreed…one thing we can all agree on is that we are all Zimbabweans and each one of us is entitled to one vote of self -determination under our Constitution.

“Therefore, to take that one vote from anyone or suppress it in any way would be gross infringement of one’s fundamental constitutional rights, an injustice of the worst kind,” said Mathibela.

War veterans have played an active role in ruling party and national succession politics.

In the run-up to former president Robert Mugabe’s removal from office with direct military assistance in late 2017, they openly protested against the long-time ruler.

They were led by veterans who included Christopher Mutsvangwa and Victor Matemadanda, who were subsequently incorporated into cabinet by the Mugabe successors led by Mnangagwa and former army general, Constantino Chiwenga.

Zimbabweans celebrate Mugabe ouster in 2017

Mathibela added that Mnangagwa was surrounded by “criminals” who must be removed from positions of power.

“In 2017, the special operation (Operation Restore Order that led to Mugabe’s exit) sought to remove the criminals from around the presidency and bring sanity to the top leadership of the country.

“The people of Zimbabwe and war veterans led the charge. Perhaps we did not thoroughly carry out this task to the letter. Today, it has even become every criminal ‘s dream to be called honourable and these criminals are becoming more emboldened,” he noted.