Former ZIPRA fighters condemn violence against citizens

HARARE – The Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) says former freedom fighters must promote and cherish peace rather than spend time organizing violence on the people they helped liberate.\r\n

In a veiled attack on their Zanla counterparts, the Zipra  War Veterans Trust chairman, Ray Ncube said fomenting violence against citizens is a negation of the true values of veterans who fought for peace and stability in Zimbabwe.

He told journalists at Harare’s St Giles Rehabilitation Centre where he was part of the festivities to mark the United States Veterans Day, that his organisation is opposed to politics and violence which remain entrenched amongst war veterans.

“We are not a divisive organisation. Our work is to promote peace and dialogue. We have introduced transformational measures that will move communities all over Zimbabwe from a culture of fear to a culture of peace and transparency.

“We promote peace, healing and forgiveness to encourage transformation in the communities where war veterans live.  I am more than 50 years old and fought in the war but that chapter is over. I have no need to engage in things that encourage violence and undermine peace,” said Ncube.

He said the Zipra  war veterans trust has a membership of 17 000 cadres.

“Where others spend time mobilising people for violence, we spend time helping those in pain and encouraging peace and forgiveness in the same communities.”

He said Zipra members have held meetings and workshops in Matabeleland, Midlands and Harare but expressed regrets on the lukewarm response by the inclusive government.

The much touted national healing programme which falls under the Organ for National Healing and Reconciliation has been widely criticised for its inaction.

Victims of political violence have dismissed it as a cheap political gimmick by the three main political parties in the inclusive government because it has failed to take off the ground.

While Ncube did not want to comment about their relationship with the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), he emphatically distanced his organisation from the militant group.

The back bone of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, ZNLWVA does not recognise the existence of other bodies, including Zipra war veterans trust, and insist they are divisive and tribal.

But Mugabe, aware of the ructions that have been caused by infighting amongst the former freedom fighters, insists that the splinter groups and ZNLWVA  should bury their differences and unite.

“Look at your history and examine where you are now.  I appeal to you; get together and discuss your differences. We don’t want to speak to you as groups. We want to speak to you as a group,” said Mugabe on Heroes Day this year. “In the struggle, you were one. You are bound by the commitment to bring independence to your country.”

Combative and often restive, the war veterans have become the pillar of Mugabe and Zanu PF strength in the last decade where they helped the octogenarian leader and his ailing party maintain a loose grip on power.

In 2000, led by the late Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, the war veterans  seized white commercial-owned farms and looted property worth millions of dollars after Mugabe had been rejected in a referendum for a new constitution.

In the same year, the former fighters orchestrated a violent election campaign against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai which almost knocked off Mugabe and Zanu PF from their perch.

The United States ambassador Charles Ray who was part of the volunteers, who spent three hours helping with manual work at St Giles, said his country was proud to be part of the Zimbabwean community and had dedicated time to serve the community as part of the US Veterans Day.

‘We are learning and appreciating Zimbabwe more (and also) helping Zimbabwe appreciate America more. This is meaningful, taking a few hours to help someone who is less fortunate and someone in pain,” said Ray in reference to the work the US embassy staff and Zipra war veterans trust members did during visit.

Ray said it was wrong and a negation of the true spirit of veterans to label former freedom fighters divisive “because they showed internal commitment to help their communities.”

Veterans Day is a nation-wide holiday in the US and falls on November 11 for the purpose of honouring veterans and supporting world peace. – Daily News