When I read the article “War Vets $500,000 demands false, malicious, says Mutsvangwa” in Bulawayo24 and Khuluma Afrika I cheered, laughed and cried, not for joy but rather in disappointment and despair as I realized what I thought was the light at the end of a tunnel was an oncoming runaway train.
In 1997 the Mugabe government paid the country’s liberation war veterans Z$50 000 (or US$ 4 000) gratuity and agreed to pay them thereafter a pension and other benefits. The gratuity was unbudgeted and the nation could not afford it and the Z$ suffered a massive 70% devaluation, the biggest the drop the currency had ever suffered and marking the beginning of the end. The Z$ was scrapped in November 2008 when inflation reached a nauseating 500 billion percent. These are historic facts; the backdrop of the above article.
The gratuity payment also included giving them seized white owned farms, the only valuable asset still left at that time. The war veterans spearheaded the farm seizures but only a few of them ever benefited; Mugabe and his cronies got the lion’s share of the farms.
There was nothing wrong with paying war veterans the gratuity per se, after all many of them were facing serious economic hardships as were millions of fellow Zimbabweans; as long as the nation could afford it. It was clear before the payments were made, and subsequent events of 70% devaluation, etc. have since confirmed, the nation could not afford it.
Of course it was foolish to pay the war veterans the gratuity and bankrupt the nation. Indeed, if any of the recipients of the gratuity had not been so pennywise and pound-foolish they have complained at receiving a gratuity worth US$ 4 000 one day and, as if by some wicked wizardry, is only worth US$ 1 200 the next day! It was even worse for any war veteran who ferreted away the Z$ 50 000 because by the time the Z$ was scrapped in 2008 they would not even buy one single grain of rice with it!
As if it was not terrible enough that Mugabe was destroying the nation’s economy with the gratuity payment to war veterans; worst of all, this was a sinister payment for a sinister purpose. The gratuity payment was, on paper, a gratuity payment to war veterans for their sacrifice and hardship they endured throughout the liberation war. In reality the Z$ 50 000 was a down payment with promises for more if the war veterans helped Mugabe and Zanu PF retain political power at all cost.
Mugabe and Zanu PF were swept into power in 1980 on the strength of their liberation war credentials and the promise to bring mass prosperity, “gutsa ruzhinji” as Mugabe never tired of saying. By the late 1980s it was clear the robust economy the country inherited from the whites was on the decline. By the time Mugabe was offering the war veterans the bribe in 1997 it was clear his mass prosperity had turned into mass poverty and his hold on political power was under serious threat.
Mugabe risked the total collapse of the national economy (it happened and worse) by making the very generous gratuity payments and disrupting the agricultural sector to give the money and farms to war veterans and his cronies - sinister payment. For him to hold on to political power, he knew he would have to deny the people of Zimbabwe their freedoms and basic human rights including their right to free and fair elections even more ruthlessly now than ever before. He would need the war veterans and his cronies to carry out the dirty work.
Of course Mugabe was not going to public declare the true and dark purpose behind his move to deny the people their freedoms and rights and so he created this imaginary threat of the British hell-bend on regime-change and recolonizing Zimbabwe. War veterans, security chiefs like Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, Douglas Nyikayaramba in the Army, etc. all too to fighting to stop regime change with zeal and gusto like ducklings to water.
Jabulani Sibanda, who has the notoriety of being the most ruthless and feared of all ZNLWVA thugs, has terrorized the opposition and ordinary people for years. He was booted out of association in 2014 by Mugabe after his “bedroom coup in State House” jibe. Since then Sibanda and a number of the other war veterans who too were booted out of Zanu PF have since admitted that they have known all along that they were denying the people their freedoms and rights in order to impose the Zanu PF dictatorship.
The foreign inspired regime change agenda as just a clumsy excuse for denying people a meaningful free vote.
Zimbabwe has always had been a multi-party democracy on paper; in practice it has always been a de facto one-party dictatorship and the Police, Army, ZEC and all the other State institution and the other institutions like ZNLWVA have all played their part in imposing the later on the nation.
The whole nation has been hoped that the raging factional war in Zanu PF will force all those in the State institutions like the Police, Army and ZEC and in ZNLWVA to finally open their eyes and see that in denying the people their freedoms and rights they are stopping the change to end the economic meltdown by keeping a corrupt and murderous regime in power. Worse still, in promoting this no regime change nonsense, they are committing treason against the nation.
Zimbabwe is go to hold fresh elections in 2018 with the national economy in total meltdown. Unemployment is 90% plus, health and education have all but collapse, 76% of the people now live in abject poverty, etc. Mugabe and Zanu PF’s popularity is rock-bottom; Mugabe will have to pull all the stops to rig the vote and he will need all the help he can get.
It was no surprise therefore to hear that Mugabe had just splashed $20 million on new vehicles and gave 13 of them to war veterans in a determined effort to woo them back. One of Mugabe’s minister met the war veteran leaders in this all-out effort to woo the war veterans back as his storm troopers.
Many people were not surprised to read that war veterans were demanding US$ 500 000 this time as the price for their support. They named their price in 1997 and they are naming one now. Mutsvangwa denied the report of war veterans demanded cash.
“Mutsvangwa expressed total disgust at the reports, and stated that they were and at worst shamelessly malicious,” read the Khuluma Afrika report.
“Mutsvangwa stated that the genuine war veterans are fully aware of parlous state of the economy.”
I cheered because this is the first time I can remember that a thick-head like Mutsvangwa has acknowledged that the Zimbabwe economy is in a serious mess. It was clear to anyone with any common sense that Zimbabwe economy was heading for trouble as far back as 1985 with people like Mutsvangwa it is only now that the penny has finally dropped.
"The systematic destruction of the Zim economy is the diabolic handiwork of the G40 all done paint the revolutionary project we initiated as the Soweto generation of 1970s," explained Mutsvangwa.
"Their evil and mendacious agenda being to depict Africans as inane and indigent failures in modern national economic endeavour. But the same token bolstering the mantra of post-imperial fiduciary clutch hold of our bountiful resources."
I was silenced in mid cheer. The idiot is still in denial. The G40 faction only came into existence in the last two years and the history of Zimbabwe’s economic decline goes back to April 1980 when Mugabe took over from Ian Smith.
I was very encouraged that, thick as he is, Mutsvangwa had finally come to the realization that Zimbabwe’s economic and political mess was the basket case of Africans’ “inane and indigent failure in modern nation economic endeavour”. Another penny had finally dropped, I thought. Sadly this penny had frightened the tortoise for he became even more inward looking, closing ranks with the tyrant.
“The War Veterans reaffirmed their status as revolutionaries, asserting their unwavering loyalty to Zimbabwe, the revolutionary party Zanu PF and its original authentic leadership,” was the first point the war veterans raised according to the minutes of the meeting.
They have not changed a bit, they still consider harassing, beating, raping and even murdering innocent people to impose the Zanu PF dictatorship proof of “their unwavering loyalty to Zimbabwe”! This is anathema to what the nation had fought and many before independence and since have died for.
Mugabe has his war veterans back. He will buy them plenty of meat and beer, the surest way to win over the blind loyalty of brainless thugs is through the stomach – Mugabe knows that. He will pay each war veteran a few hundred dollars to seal the deal. He could have paid them a lot more if he wished from the billions he is looting from Marange but he is not one to spoil a dog with meat when a bone will do.
The war veterans played a key role in the wanton violence in the 2008 elections and in the 2013 elections they played a more subtle role, the menacing growl, to remind everyone what will happen if Zanu PF had failed to the landslide victory it wanted. Mugabe will be using the war veterans as his trump card again in the coming elections.
After decades of Zanu PF misrule have taken Zimbabwe right to the edge of the precipice another rigged elections and the nation will tumble over.
The country must address the gross mismanagement, rampant corruption and the lawlessness fuelled by greed; the three cancers killing the Zimbabwe economy. Mugabe has done nothing to address these problems because they are an integral part of his political patronage system that has kept him and Zanu PF in power.
To have meaningful economic recovery we first need to implement meaningful political reforms that will end the corrupt and tyranny of Zanu PF political patronage and dictatorship. The ultimate test that the political reforms were comprehensive and were properly implemented is for the country to hold its first free, fair and credible elections.
As long as Mugabe knows he can count of brainless rogues like Mutsvangwa and his war veteran thugs to help him deny the people their freedoms and rights the tyrant will continue to rig elections even with the country in a perilous position and in real danger of tipping over. If the nation ever escaped out of this mess then it is not just tyrants like Mugabe and his cronies like Mnangagwa, Chihuri, etc. who must be held to account war veterans like Jabulani Sibanda, Chris Mutsvangwa must too be held to account.