War Veterans Association faces major split

The fight to control the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association intensified this week, with a rival faction calling for fresh elections for leadership positions.

The current power struggle pits the old executive, led by Jabulani Sibanda and Joseph Chinotimba, which is aligned to ZANU PF strongman Emmerson Mnangagwa, to a faction with strong links to retired army general, Solomon Mujuru.

Retired Colonel Basten Beta, a Mujuru ally is leading a group that is threatening to hold a congress in Chinhoyi this weekend. Other members of his group include former war veterans’ secretary-general Endy Mhlanga, Douglas Mahiya and Moffat Marashwa, who are all vying for top posts in the war veterans’ body.

The current fight to control the war vets body first erupted in early December last year when the Beta faction called for a congress in Chinhoyi to elect a new leadership. But the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, stepped in and ordered the faction to cancel the meeting saying it fell too close to the ZANU PF congress, which was held in the second week of December.

Concerned of the ‘domino effect’ the war vets congress would have on the main party congress, Chiwenga summoned both factions to Defence House, the headquarters of the defence forces in central Harare.

He reportedly ordered them to put their fight on hold and allow the ZANU PF congress to go ahead without ‘any problems.’ The last congress for the war veterans’ body was held in 2002. According to its constitution, a new executive was supposed to be elected in 2005.

Sox Chikohwero, a war veteran who joined the MDC at its inception in 1999, told us there is no doubt that during the ‘cooling off’ period the Beta faction were sharpening their knives ready to pounce against the Sibanda led executive. The ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrillas are considered an integral cog of ZANU PF’s survival machine which is used at times to intimidate, beat, murder and rape opponents of the party.

‘While I support the call to have elections in the war vets body, I disagree with Beta’s views that Sibanda has failed to represent the war veterans welfare and allowed the ex-freedom fighters to be abused by politicians during the chaotic 2000 land reform programme which the majority of them did not benefit. This has been a decade. Where was Beta and his colleagues in the last 10 years to bring up such issues now,’ Chikohwero said.

Beta on Monday controversially said the war veterans were entitled to a 20 percent share of any resource in the country, because of their liberation credentials.

He told Radio VOP that they should get a 20 percent share of land allocations under the land ‘reform’ programme, 20% of residential stands allocations in all towns and cities, plus 20% of all natural resources and anything to do with mines.

He said it was time for real war veterans to stand up and reclaim their legacy and he warned that the body had been infiltrated by people who did not go to war. In an apparent reference to Chinotimba and his legion of youthful ‘war veteran’ supporters Beta said; ‘We have been infiltrated by bogus people, some as young as 22 years. A war veteran is a disciplined, old person not these 16 years old boys and girls who went around the country in 2008 killing and raping people. If you see a person beating up people then that person is not a war veteran.’

Chikohwero countered; ‘I hope Beta can stand up and say the exact words in front of Mugabe and the military junta. If they had known of the infiltrations why didn’t they say so then? I think this is just grandstanding, if it comes to crunch time Mugabe can use the former guerillas as and when he likes without anyone objecting.’