ZIMBABWE – As we write, there is a lull in the country – like the uneasy calm after a storm.
There was a virtual war on Thursday.
War veterans from across the country had come to Harare intending to be addressed by their leadership following developments that have seen the purported removal of some leaders, namely Cdes Chris Mutsvangwa and Victor Matemadanda, and their replacement with a band led by Cde Mandiitawepi Chimene.
The war vets were met with the brutal force of the police as they were teargassed and attacked by water cannons and were forced to scurry and scamper for cover.
Of course, according to Charity Charamba only “minimum force” was used.
But the irony was writ large: here was a group of people who fought valiantly for the liberation of this country, being denied the right to assemble in a country they freed.
Here were born-frees enacting violence on their liberators and what came at the end of the day were tragicomic scenes as the war veterans ran for dear life.
Some people out there have even come up with jokes on the day in question.
Many are crudely wondering how a reserve army could wilt in the face of anti-riot police, ignoring conveniently that these people, were in their civilian hats and garb.
The contempt for war veterans is not something new.
Having been a vital cog in the machinery of zanu-pf especially in the post-2000 era when the country faced a great threat from foreign-sponsored opposition, war vets have not been particular favourites of the opponents of Zimbabwe’s self- determination.
Mostly in urban areas, where the opposition dominates, war veterans have been objects of ridicule.
But their place in the rural areas, where not only the war was keenly felt and where support for the ruling party has remained constant, war vets have their place.
There is an inherent connection between war veterans and the rural areas, where the ruling party enjoys its majority support.
Given what transpired on Thursday, and what has lately happened and been said in the ruling party, there is stark symbolism on the relationship and nexus between the ruling party and war veterans and indeed rural areas.
It has to be conceded that there have been some dis- agreeable people in the institution of war veterans leadership as currently constituted – and Cdes Mutsvangwa and Matemadanda are the fall guys.
(No one is obliged to agree with that, though)
It has not helped the cause of war veterans, we mean the whole community, that some within their number have dragged their names into the factional wars that are characterising the ruling party zanu-pf.
Quite unnecessarily, largely.
However, the attacks on war veterans have gone way beyond a personality clash.
The whole institution, it appears, is under attack.
And when those old men and women who were attacked on Thursday went back to their homes, what were they thinking?
Some of them were interviewed by the media.
We heard their sentiments.
These sentiments are likely to rub on to the people in the rural areas and on the farms, where zanu-pf gets its majority votes.
These guys may not be too sophisticated, too lovable, and some of them are drunks and even mad.
But these people are zanu-pf people.
What is the cost of maligning them?
So little to demand
The same war veterans are poor peasants in the countryside who endure a lot of hardship as they scratch the earth for a living.
This year, the drought year, they will fare worse.
These are the people for whom sanctions against Zimbabwe are meant – the ordinary people who feel the hurt of a collapsed economy and curtailed systems.
These are the people who should capitulate and give the vote to the enemy.
These are people being targeted by the likes of USAid so that they can sell their heritage for a mess of pottage.
But they refuse.
They have refused for a long time and if elections were to be held tomorrow they would still vote zanu-pf.
They demand very little of the State, most of them having little or no access to the trappings of luxury that is even enjoyed by those who did not go to war.
Most of them are content with Government inputs and occasional food handouts in times like this when Nature does not yield.
Still, they have not sold out and have remained a critical cog in the zanu-pf machine.
The relationship between the ruling party and war vets has not been about the party being the benefactor, which it has not done adequately.
Rather, it has been one of symbiosis tied as zanu-pf is to the war that the veterans fought and the larger ideology born out of the unique journey of history.
There are war veterans that have long left the party.
Many would see reasons to, especially when it is in fashion to blame everything on the party.
There are others, like some contemporary Zimbabweans, who blame their own personal woes on the ruling party.
They have left.
But many war veterans have stuck with the ruling party, even when they have not materially benefited from the party.
These are the ordinary people who make up war vets – not the super war vets that some of us disagree with.
We can’t let them down or let our contempt for a few bad apples cloud our vision.
After recent events, there is a serious need for introspection on the part of zanu-pf and its allies such as the war veterans.
The country is sitting on something like a precipice.
The factional wars that are currently taking place can make or break the organisation that we know as zanu-pf indeed the country that we know as Zimbabwe.
There is need for the protagonists to sit down and reflect on the past of the party and the future of the organisation, which has an impact on the future of this proud country.
Is it not such a pity that the current rumpus in the ruling party has to more to do with personalities rather than policy; idiocy rather than ideology?
Let’s face it: Where is the economy in all this? People’s welfare? Food? Salaries?
And when all the drama plays out and dies, where will the country be?
These are things that we should think hard and long about.
Let’s think about Zimbabwe.