Nduduzo Tshuma Political Editor—
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday rapped war veterans’ chairman Cde Christopher Mutsvangwa for calling a meeting of former fighters in Harare on Thursday using the false claims that the Head of State wanted to address them. The President also castigated factionalism, tribalism and indiscipline in the party especially by the youth saying the party would take action against those found on the wrong side of the rules.
Police on Thursday had to use tear gas to disperse war veterans at the Harare City Sports Centre after their meeting was deemed illegal with Cde Mutsvangwa telling journalists afterwards that the law enforcement agents had unnecessarily used a heavy hand against the former fighters.
In an address to the nation at State House in Harare, President Mugabe said neither he nor Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, flanking him as he spoke, had been notified of the meeting.
He said Cde Mutsvangwa had also not informed security ministries namely Home Affairs, State Security and Defence manned by ministers Ignatius Chombo, Kembo Mohadi and Sydney Sekeramayi respectively.
As a result, the President said, Cde Mutsvangwa was responsible for the regrettable experience that the former liberation fighters endured at the hands of the police.
“In regard to the so-called extraordinary meeting of war veterans, none of us here heard about it in advance and that means, the President, the Vice Presidents. The ministers I had the occasion of talking to yesterday (Thursday) night, Sekeramayi, Mohadi and Chombo, they’re all security ministers also had not heard about this event until it happened,” said President Mugabe
“I’m the patron of the war veterans, I wasn’t informed about it let alone even getting to know what their subject was and Cde Mutsvangwa, we had appointed him as minister of war veterans, the first ever person to occupy such a position when we created it for the first time in Cabinet, I don’t know in which capacity he invited war veterans but he was, it doesn’t matter which capacity, even if he invited them as chairperson of war veterans, he was still minister, their minister and if the intention was to be a demonstration, demonstration against what? A government of which he is a minister? If it was to express grievances, what grievances?”
President Mugabe said Cde Mutsvangwa has a channel in Cabinet to leadership about the plight of war veterans and also suggest how best they can be addressed.
“But for him to have called a meeting about which we knew nothing, in circumstances which he had not clearly sought permission from the authorities in violation therefore of the law, he being a minister, he cannot at the end of it all after the law and order officers have taken action against the meeting and war veterans, complain that he was ill treated or that they were ill treated.
“He must bear the responsibility to have invited the war veterans in the name of the President telling them that the President would want to address them when in fact the President didn’t know about this invitation of them is to abuse his authority as minister in the gravest way possible. We take exception to that.”
President Mugabe said Cde Mutsvangwa had acted in a completely irresponsible manner which tarnishes the image of both party and the government leaving people wondering, “if in fact we’re governing in accordance with the rules.
“People were, naturally, hurt or at least they had this water from the canons down their bodies let alone the teargas in their eyes. We regret that they suffered this but the man to blame is their chairman and minister and of course he will have to answer as minister why he has done it without authority,” said
He said himself and the two Vice Presidents were also war veterans including some former freedom fighters who after Independence spread among various sectors including security, civil service, agriculture and academia among others.
President Mugabe said the government has fought hard to address the plight of war veterans adding that their ministry would remain in place. Turning on the fights among party members reportedly divided along factional lines, President Mugabe said divisive talk and actions must stop.
“So those who are saying, we belong to those faction or that faction, I say to them shut up! You belong to Zimbabwe. Let us not hear any divisive voice from you. The G40s or what you call Lacoste or whatever, shut up!” he said.
President Mugabe said the party, from the days of the liberation struggle, dealt with contradictions which recognised that the party had an ideological direction and national objective to pursue.
“The political direction of the party must also continue to guide us. The comradeship and need for unity and togetherness of the party, that fundamental basis on which we built ourselves must continue to exist. If contradictions develop they should never be of a nature that’s antagonistic, too negative where people start fighting each other, insulting each other, abusing each other and we’re seeing this happening now,” said President Mugabe.
“Even our young people, the party aside, there is also the culture that guides us. Our culture never allows a young person even an elder to abuse another but now you’re all being abused. The President, his wife in a manner that is very disgraceful. It’s a shame.
“What you’re doing youths, leave your mbanje! Insulting seniors with shameful words. Discard that behaviour.” He said the party would sanction those who have fallen foul of the party’s constitution.
“So we’ll definitely take action where we feel action should be taken within the party. There is need for a whip of discipline now to be shown and to be used,” said President Mugabe.
He said the struggle continues and the party would not be diverted as it is aware that the enemy is working hard to divert Zimbabweans from the direction of self determination and exploitation of their natural resources.
“It doesn’t matter what tribe we belong to, we’re all nationals, Zimbabweans, sons of the soil, vana vevhu, abantwana bomhlabathi. That’s what we’ve called ourselves in the past and still call ourselves today.
“That’s because we belong to one another regardless of which region we come from, which province we come from, which tribe we belong to and the war was fought on the basis of that recognition that we belong to one another, that we belong to each other, we’re one as Zimbabweans and as Zimbabweans therefore the sufferings of our people in one region are our sufferings and the government being the party that they belong to, must recognise and pay attention to their suffering and try to provide necessary remedies,” said President Mugabe.
“Quarrels there may be, there are always quarrels in families, in villages but our togetherness as Zimbabweans shall never be broken and that’s why we say we’re just one Zimbabwe. Pamberi neZimbabwe, Pamberi nekubatana.”
President Mugabe said the party youth had organised the 21st February Movement celebrations, to mark his 92nd birthday, to be held in Masvingo next Saturday and expects unity by the time the party is held.
“Our young people are arranging that get-together on their day which is in praise of the President as it is meant to be recognition of the President’s birthday. But we regard it as the day of our youths — the 21st of February – although the recognition is put on 27 February, will take place at Zimbabwe Ruins,” said President Mugabe.
“We want to go and pay our tribute to our birth place. Let us think of that. “Think of what our ancestors have bequeathed as a legacy for us and what we ourselves in turn shall bequeath as a legacy for our own children. “We don’t intend to leave a legacy of differences, insults, indiscipline and quarrels and misunderstanding.
“No! We want harmony and peace, togetherness and one right defence, fight for that legacy. “Fight against any interference from outside.”