Ignorance, especially the type that leads one to act against one’s own best interests, has to be one of the worst curses to afflict an individual, society and, worst of all, a nation. We are a cursed nation, how else can one explain the self-debasing ignorance shown by the war vets, for example.
“We have a total of 43 000 (war veterans’) children who benefit from our US$6 million budget per term, of those children about 22 000 forms have so far been submitted and processed,” boosted the Secretary for Welfare Services for War Veterans, Walter Tapfumaneyi.
The money was only paid after the war vets had complained to Mugabe about the economic hardships they were facing. Ever since the country attained her independence in 1980, the country has followed a downward path to economic decline whose gradient has grown steeper and steeper. After the first two decades of mismanagement and corruption under this Mugabe tyrannical rule, it was finally clear to the majority of Zimbabweans that Zanu PF will never deliver mass prosperity.
Mugabe was not willing to dismantle the corrupt and oppressive political system he has set up since it was the one that kept him and Zanu PF in power. The only way the nation was ever going to change course from the disastrous path it was on was for the people to reclaim their democratic right to have a meaningful say in the governance of the country and have free, fair and credible elections. If there is one segment of Zimbabwe society that has done the most to resist democratic change in the last 20 years it is the war vets!
When Mugabe lost the 1999 referendum on the new constitution he felt his iron-grip on political power slipping he needed four things to happen to restore his autocratic grip on power:
· He needed an issue for the nation to focus its attention on taking it away from his pathetic record of mass poverty induced by gross mismanagement and rampant corruption and murderous tyranny as exemplified by Gukurahundi murderers – the land issue.
· With the worsen economic situation there was very little wealth left to dole away to his wasteful but ever demanding Zanu PF cronies – the white owned farms was the only resource left to dole away.
· To silence the growing public demand for democratic change including free and fair elections Mugabe knew he would need to dig deep and deny the people their freedoms and basic human rights even more ruthless than ever. What he needed was an excuse to justify his use of violence against all those opposed to continued rule by his imposed de facto one party dictatorship. First, he declared war marked by the wanton violence against the white farmers and their workers; burning properties, beating people and no fewer than 30 people were murdered. The violence was unjustified since none of the white farmers ever tried to resist the evictions.
The gratuitous violence against the white farmers always spread to engulf all blacks who dared oppose Mugabe’s no-regime change agenda under the pretext those people were sell-out working in cahoots with the West who were seeking regime change to undermine Zanu PF’s land reform.
The gratuitous violence against the opposition and the ordinary people assumed its monstrous proportion in the 2008 elections when it was impossible to hide its real political intention. “What was achieved by the bullet cannot be undone by a ballot!” boosted Mugabe at the time. Millions of people were beaten and/or raped and over 500 were murdered in the orgy of violence that year.
· Mugabe had corrupted the Police, Army and CIO, as with all the other State institution, to turn a blind-eye to the lawlessness and violence by Zanu PF members designed to further the party’s no-regime change agenda. With the country’s economic decline Mugabe lost the party’s traditional foot-soldiers in the form of overzealous Zanu PF women and youth members; the penny had finally dropped as they too realized that the country need political change to stop the economic rot. Mugabe needed new foot-soldiers to carry out the low level harassment, intimidation, beating, etc. of the civilian population and the war vets step up to do this dirty work with zeal.
After 20 years of doing nothing war vets like Jabulani Sibanda were only too pleased to be granted a political role even if it was a demeaning one, completely at odds with what freedom fighters stood for!
However, the primary reason why many war vets spearheaded the violent farm invasions and the equally violent denial of the people’s freedoms and basic human rights these last 20 years was economic; they were affected by the growing poverty just as badly as everyone else and they thought Mugabe was offering them the sure path to the elusive prosperity. They thought the Z$50 000 cash payment, a pension, government promise to pay war vets’ children’s fees, etc. were the first down payment of many more to come. By giving the regime their blind loyalty even to the extent of denying the masses their freedoms and basic rights the war vets were doing their bit to ensure Zanu PF remained in power to make the future payments!
What the war vets failed to understand 20 years ago because of their ignorance is that the nation’s economic decline was caused by mismanagement and corruption and as long as Zanu PF remained in power these were set to get worse and so too will the economic decline. The Z$ 50 000, etc. were painkillers and not the cure. It was not therefore in the war vets own economic interest as well as that of the nation to retain the corrupt and incompetent Mugabe regime in power under this false pretence that the country’s elections are about land and nothing else.
Although it was self-evident that the war vets were not bowled over by promise to pay the school fees much less the other wishy-washy promises Mugabe made at the 7 April meeting with the war vets. What Mugabe would be hoping is that the school fees payment would be enough to buy the war vets’ blind loyalty for the time being.
What the war vets must get into their thick heads is that it is not the continued reign of Zanu PF which is at issue here but the very survival of the nation. The economic meltdown and political chaos in the country is socially and politically unsustainable; we need cure and democratic reforms are that cure. If 20 years ago the nation’s leg was broken and then today gangrene has set in; the war vets forced the nation to take painkillers back then the nation cannot go a long with this foolishness today!