ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime on Thursday showed little respect for the country’s liberation war veterans, with the country’s dreaded anti-riot police ruthlessly dispersing scores of the former fighters who had gathered at the City Sports Centre in Harare to demonstrate against continued attacks against them by First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
Part of the space between the City Sports Centre and the Interpol offices resembled a war zone as the anti-riot police used teargas and other crowd control measures to disperse the former fighters who angrily castigated President Robert Mugabe for denigrating their role in the liberation of the country.
At one point, police, armed with batons and shields, and some with guns, exchanged insults with the former fighters, as they tried to push them away from the venue.
n the meantime, Victor Matemadanda, Secretary of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association who was suspended from the war veterans group together with chairperson, Christopher Mutsvangwa, was said to have approached the High Court seeking an interdict barring the police from banning the meeting.
“This is unbelievable. I think this is a historical day in the history of Zimbabwe, to show that there is oppression as they are doing to us right now. We seem to be under (former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian) Smith or under an American government, we don’t know what is happening now.
“These people are the foundation of the revolution. You don’t want to sit down with them why, are you Smith, are you (US President) Bush, who are you?” fumed one female war veteran, who identified herself as Comrade Karen Nehanda.
Nehanda said it was disturbing that President Mugabe was allowing his wife to continue her attacks on war veterans at her whirlwind rallies across the country.
“We just need someone to explain to us what is happening. How can someone say down with comrades, which country has ever rejected its own war veterans. Even those who went to World War 1 are still being celebrated, they celebrate their veterans in America, they celebrate their founding fathers but in Zanu PF, we feel that the way we love our President and our party, the way we love our nationalists as fighters, they have to love us back,” she said.
She said they were not mercenaries but people with a revolutionary legacy for Zimbabwe founded on revolutionary ideals that started way back with African resistance.
War veterans, she said, did not understand why President Mugabe was not saying anything when they were being attacked left, right and centre.
Another war veteran, who identified himself as Mabhunu Tambaoga, said Mugabe was not a war veteran, saying he had only come to Mozambique at the end of the war and had at first been rejected by the comrades.
“During the liberation struggle, we had rejected President Mugabe because of his character. We finally accepted him because of the situation of Comrade Samora Machel, who said we should accept him as our leader because there is no country that can run without a President. There were people who had hoped to elect when we got home after the war, not him,” he said.
Another war veteran, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was disturbing that police was teargasing them when they had wanted to hold a peaceful meeting.
“We have nothing, we don’t have any stones, no weapons, but they want to attack us with teargas, and some of them have live ammunition, how can they do that to unarmed people? What wrong have we done? They have all the land and all the money, but they are denying us just our freedom, it is not fair,” he said.
The meeting was said to have been arranged by war veterans aligned to the deposed Mutsvangwa executive, aligned to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
At the time of going to print, the war veterans, who had been dispersed, had not yet reconvened, with a few who were still milling around the venue by lunch time saying they were awaiting the verdict from the courts.
Others, however, were heard warning that this was only a beginning of a war to free themselves from the dictatorship of President Mugabe, who ironically is their patron.
There are fears, however, that the threat of a civil war by the war veterans was real, considering that quite a huge number of them were allegedly armed by the Zanu PF government in the run-up to the bloody 2008 presidential election run-off.
“Most of them have not returned the guns they received when they were hired to lead the reign of terror against opposition party supporters and officials in the 2008 elections and they could turn against Zanu PF if pushed into a corner,” said one analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity.