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'No war veteran has a home outside Zanu-PF'

10 Sep 2016 at 08:07hrs | Views
"We want the association to be led by people of credibility. People who will restore a responsible and constructive relationship between the war veterans and the party that created them

AT: I asked to give an exclusive interview to The Herald as a way of communicating the position of the ministry and its intentions in view of the current goings on relating to war veterans.As you know we are a new ministry that has been in existence for one year. We have a mandate deriving from the Constitution of Zimbabwe and also from the executive directive of the President to superintend over the provision of welfare benefits of war veterans as well as oversee their access to empowerment, respect, honour and all the other benefits provided in the law.

This is intended to mainstream them sustainably within the economy, the national politics and the social fabric of Zimbabwe.

My emphasis in today's interview is not on the statutory mandate deriving from the law, it is on the executive mandate coming from the President, that we must organise and unify the war veterans.

We have a specific executive mandate to that effect. We have been involved previously as ministry in organising their provincial and district elections. It is also the context in which we organised the meeting with the President on April 7 this year.

We broadcast everything live and there was no closed session. I think everyone would see that that meeting achieved a lot in terms of the relationship between Government and war veterans and the party and war veterans.

That rare interaction that took place between the President and war veterans ironed out a lot of differences and misunderstanding that were by then floating around. The meeting came up with resolutions which are now being matrixed by Cabinet and the party for implementation.

Our template for action, which the ministry is administering are the resolutions of that meeting. It is a very comprehensive set of resolutions which talk to the war veterans view about how the party needs to function, about their welfare and their empowerment, very comprehensive.

In February 2016, we had the unfortunate split of a group led by Honourable Minister Mandi Chimene from the mainstream War Veterans Association.

They hit the ground canvassing membership and setting up parallel structures, which to all intents and purposes spelt a split of the war veterans association into two distinct factions, one led by Christopher Mutsvangwa and the other led by Mandi Chimene.

CC: So currently there still remains a split within the association?

AT: Yes, there is still a split within the war veterans' association. And that is not the only problem. There was also the incident of documents, you might have heard of a document called Blue Ocean, which was attributed to war veterans. From our own inquiry they said "no it was not us".

CC: Before you move on, what prompted the splinter group led by Mandi Chimene from the mainstream war vets association?

AT: The reason that they give is that they represent a sentiment among war veterans who were not happy with the style of leadership that Mr Mutsvangwa undertook. During his tenure, he only worked with a handful of people from the association.

On November 15, 2014, there was a meeting held in Masvingo in the build-up to the Zanu-PF Congress. That general meeting is where Jabulani Sibanda was ousted and in came the administration of Mutsvangwa, which incorporated Matemadanda and the other four or so who have now been expelled from the party.

We call that the Masvingo or Great Zimbabwe Dispensation. At Great Zimbabwe, where Mutsvangwa became chairman, only 10 people were elected out of the 50 or so who were gathered and contesting national positions. The rest were put in baskets where they were supposed to go back to their provinces and an elective process would be held to elect provincial executives and then cascade down to district executives.

CC: Was that the procedure set out in the constitution of the war veterans association?

AT: The constitution of the war veterans association was actually suspended by that meeting. The meeting took a decision to suspend the constitution because it was deemed to be outdated and defective in many respects.

One of the most urgent tasks of the new executive was to amend that constitution but that was not done. The Mutsvangwa executive did not do that.

CC: Was there any particular reason why it was not done?

AT: They would cite resources, they would cite pressures, priorities and a lot of things but they did not go on to amend that constitution as had been required. That is one fault given to the Mutsvangwa executive and why Mandi Chimene and company are now breaking away.

There was also the issue of style of management. Mutsvangwa worked very closely with four or five topmost members of his executive and he did not hold any meetings, maybe one or two with his national executive, which is constituted by about 50 people.

So the war veterans complained that the association was being run by a clique. That was the second grievance that they had. The third grievance was that they felt they were being abused in many ways. Conversations that were taking place were not constructive, they would be abusive and some comrades would not get the responses to their questions about how things were being run.

So over time, the Chimenes then broke away in February. Then there were the utterances from Mutsvangwa, Matemadanda and so on, casting aspersions on the President, the party and the First Lady. This did not go down well with the war veterans who are loyal to the party and to the President. They felt that even if things were wrong somewhere, there must be a constructive way of addressing them.

I cannot also avoid the fact that there are elements in the party for whatever reasons, maybe reasons associated with unbridled ambition or a view to check those ambitions, to contain them. You begin to have now the war veterans as spilt, one group being associated with what is so called Team Lacoste and the other with G40.

To the extent, that the problems that are associated with the war veterans cannot be entirely blamed on them. Some of them are coming from the party. This is a reality that nobody can deny.

So I said there was Blue Ocean document. There was an attempt by the Mutsvangwas to meet and they were teargassed. That did not go down well with the war veterans. Then they went in protest addressing their members, camped for about three weeks close to the Meikles. All the while anger was welling up.

The meeting with the President checked that wave of discontent that was growing. By that time, however, from about February 19, the war veterans had already split into two camps.

Then there was the tour of the provinces that happened after the war vets meeting with the President, where they were briefing those who didn't come to the meeting about the outcomes. But very late in that programme, in Masvingo, in Mat South, in Midlands and in Mat North, the Matemadandas began to speak explicitly about their preferences for succession. This was not the purpose of the meetings that were being held. That created more problems in the relationship between the association and the party.

Finally, there was the communiqué of July 21, where they held a meeting at Raylton in Harare. From our inquires, there was no communiqué circulated at the meeting. Even those who attended, whether leading the meeting or just participating did not see any communiqué.

CC: So where does the Ministry believe the communiqué originated from?

AT: As a ministry we think the communiqué was authored outside, even before the meeting. It may be possible that some of the war veterans there had a hand in it but it is not what was produced by that meeting. It is not a product of that meeting although it is attributed to the meeting because of the coincidence of its release.

Whoever released it was keen to make sure that that communiqué took some legitimacy from that meeting although it wasn't discussed in the meeting.

CC: What was discussed in the meeting?

AT: People discussed, they said a lot of things. They were angry, they expressed anger.

CC: Anger at who or towards who?

AT: About their welfare, about their relationship with the party and the way things are going. But somebody pre-empted that and wrote a communiqué which they then attributed to war veterans. But even if it is written by war veterans it can only be a handful who did that.

I understand that there is still an investigation and a court process underway, both of which will maybe bring out the truth about that communiqué. After this came the expulsion of Mutsvangwa and the group from the party, the top five or so who were in the leadership of the association.

So we have an association which is divided, problem number one. We have an association that is now leaderless.

CC: What do you mean by leaderless?

AT: The top five have been taken out of the party, so it becomes untenable for someone who is not a member of Zanu-PF to lead the association. The association is an affiliate of the party and in that sense it is subordinate to the party like all other organs of the party.

Yes, at law it is a private voluntary organisation where people join voluntarily but practically war veterans are a product of Zanu-PF, the liberation movements Zapu and Zanu. War veterans, all things being normal, have no home outside of Zanu-PF.

CC: So how do you resolve this situation where you have leaders of the affiliate association who are outside the party?

AT: That is part of the problem we are trying to address now with the measures we are taking. The association does not represent all war veterans. I am not a member of the association and a lot of people are not. I don't become a war veteran by membership to the association. The association is incidental to our being war veterans. So when a clique in the association speaks, it does not speak for all war veterans.

There is also an issue of leadership in the association. We want the association to be led by people of credibility. People who will restore a responsible and constructive relationship between the war veterans and the party that created them.

CC: So how then, as the ministry that deals with war veterans, do you reconcile the two separate groups? You have said that they are leaderless. What processes must then take place for a leadership to emerge?

AT: That's where we are going? We have held a series of meetings here, very high-level meetings. First, meetings bringing Government and the ruling party together. The first one was on August 18. It was presided over by Honourable Sydney Sekeremayi who is also the Secretary for War Veterans Affairs at the Party.

He chaired that first meeting which was very well-attended except by Honourable Kembo Mohadi and Honourable Chombo.There were committed elsewhere unless I am wrong there. All the service chiefs were there except General Valerio Sibanda and Commissioner General of the Police and the director-general of CIO but they were represented at very high level at that meeting. The Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet was invited. He was represented at a very high level at that meeting by Deputy Chief Secretary Katsande.

Zanu-PF was represented by officials in the war veterans' department, General Zavanyana, General Nyathi, Munyaradzi Machacha from the Commissariat Department, Dickson Dzora, the Director General at the party. The first meeting was to brainstorm these issues in more or less the terms that I have briefed you and to discuss the way forward, how to deal with this arising issue and all the dimensions.

That meeting was attended all in all by 40 people, very high ranking. It tasked a smaller committee which I chaired to go deeper and receive reports from intelligence, from Zanu-PF, from all over, to be able to paint the correct picture of this issue, at national level, at the party level and within the war veterans' fraternity itself.

We looked even into the legal implications of interfering with the war veterans' association when they have got their own constitution but then we found solace in our executive mandate to organise and unify the war veterans regardless of the constitution of the war veterans' association. We are concerned when they are not speaking well in the party, we are concerned when they are poorly led.

We broke down to another smaller team which was led by Retired Major General Ruwodo who is one of my principal directors and we reported back to the main committee chaired by Honourable Sekeramayi on August 31.

I am telling you so that the nation must know. When Mahiya says we met with six people, he is lying; he is misleading the nation. He must understand that we are dealing with a process. What we are doing is a culmination of a high level process which he had better join if he wants to be of any value.

If he wants to be irrelevant, he can continue with whomever he is talking to. It's not about Tapfumaneyi or Tshinga Dube, my Minister. It's about a bigger national process to try and resolve this issue.

When we met on August 31 we presented options which were approved. One was to cascade this Ministry because presently we are very thin on the ground. For the Public Service Commission to give us a moratorium from the current ban on recruitments so that we cascade our involvement to the district level where we are in direct contact with every war veteran wherever they are.

That way we are able now to know their day to day needs. We are also able to communicate with them about their perceptions and views and we become more effective in our mandate to organise and unify.

CC: Is there room for that, considering the mid-term fiscal policy review?

AT: There is. You know within Government, there will be certain understandings, there will be certain waivers. I don't think we can function effectively we are only in Harare and at provincial level.

We need to cascade. I don't think the Government created a Ministry in order for it to be redundant It was created in order to function and to function, we need personnel, we need finances, we need all the resources and we need all the skills.

That was one option which was supposed to run concurrently with some kind of constructive dialogue between selected groups of war veterans including the likes of Sekeramayi and Mohadi; there are also war veterans. They were to go and have high-level conversations with the party and with the Government so that the issue is resolved. This is very important because that is where we are going. And then, thirdly, in the interim we have a temporary structure grouping the surviving members of Zanla and Zipra who will then go on the ground to try and give structure to the war veterans.

This is not a statutory provision. It's a policy provision that we are looking at and that is what we had agreed to do with acombination of options that were supposed to run concurrently. You also heard my minister say that we were supposed to tour theprovince and talk to the war veterans.

That structure of high command, general staff and other field commanders is the one that was supposed to be talking to war veterans, in the first place bringing back the old unity of purpose. But before we could go on the ground we then said let's consult with the war veterans, let's call them and ask them what they think about those things.

So we called another meeting on September 1, the meeting was attended by that group which is chaired by Sekeramayi with all the service chiefs and all the technicians who had worked with my team. They came with the war veterans who were elected in Masvingo in 2014.

The remainder of the 50 minus the five who were expelled who were expelled.We did not invite those who were expelled from the party. We thought that was a representative enough group, provincially and also in terms of the hierarchy from the liberation struggle.

We wanted to ask one question, what do you think about what is happening. For the Government and the representatives of the party who attended, it was more of a listening meeting.

It was chaired by comrade Mohadi, Dr Sekeramayi was away, Mr Chombo could not attend as well.There was Comrade Mohadi and Minister TshingaDube, the meeting went very well .Masvingo 2014, that is when the right thing was last done.

So, MandiChimene who is now claiming to be the Chairperson is a Secretary for Information according to the Masvingo dispensation. We have the likes of George Mlala, Joseph Chinotimba, Nyaruwata who are elders according to the Masvingo dispensation.

CC: Did MandiChimene come to the meeting?

AT:CdeChimene did not come to the meeting, GeorgeMlala didn`t come too and we do not know why. But, in terms of both factions, they were well represented based on the Masvingo dispensation. It was our way of bringing them all together under one roof without choosing one faction over the other.

At the end of the conversation, the war veterans themselves proposed that since the five were expelled why don`t we have the highest ranking of the remaining members from those selected in Masvingo to lead the party in the interim.

So, the highest ranking member is the Treasurer of the War Veterans Association, Robert Ncube. That is the logic which placed him at the helm of the War Veterans Association. The intention is to have a series of activities, first of all to provide resources and leadership for the war veterans to amend their constitution for it to be in up to date with current realities.

We will help them with legal expertise, we will provide them with money for work shopping. We will also help them to lead that process.That`s step number one. Secondly, maybe within the next 30 to 60 days,we will hold a general meeting of members of the war veterans' association, to elect a leadership to fill the gaps that have been created by those who have been expelled from the party.

We don`t expect those who have been expelled to participate in this process or to throw spanners in the works. If they still want to be part of Zanu-PF, they must play possum and allow the process to play out.

That meeting which will be called under Robert Ncube`s chairmanship will then fill the vacancies in the National Executive of the Association and then also approve the amendments to their constitution.

After that we will then assist them again to go and elect their provincial structures. We will go to correct the problems at the provinces and we will also go down to correct the problems at district level in terms of leadership.

Our aim is to have a war veterans' fraternity that is in good state within the party, a war veterans` fraternity that is in good constructive conversation with the party and a war veterans' fraternity that still has a voice in the affairs of the party and the affairs of Zimbabwe.

That`s where we are going, we are acting above factions, we are acting based on principle and not based on the ambitions of personalities. This is where we are coming from, we want all well-meaning Zimbabweans in the party, amongst the war veterans to support this very constructive process. Nobody benefits from divided war veterans, people may think that this is some gain that may come but it doesn't help. We are better off together, united and working to a single purpose.

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