THE Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has rejected newly appointed War Veterans Minister, Tshinga Dube, setting the former freedom fighters on a collision course with the ruling ZANU-PF party and its leader, President Robert Mugabe.
Dube was appointed by President Mugabe on Saturday as Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Political Detainees and Restrictees, taking over from dismissed Chris Mutsvangwa who is also the national chairman of the ex-combatants’ grouping.
The war veterans have refused to recognise Dube despite the fact that he was a deputy minister under Mutsvangwa, whom ZANU-PF suspended for three years for alleged misbehaviour. Mutsvangwa is believed to be a key member of Team Lacoste, a ZANU-PF faction which is fighting against a rival faction called Generation 40 (G40).
Team Lacoste is campaigning for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Mugabe in the event that he leaves office after more than 36 years as the country’s top civil servant.
But G40 is bitterly opposed to the plan.
Mnangagwa’s camp looks headed for a major failure if the on-going purging of the Vice President’s allies is anything to go by.
Two weeks ago, President Mugabe publicly attacked Mutsvangwa, paving the way for his eventual suspension from the party and consequent dismissal from government.
The war veterans have defiantly rallied behind Mutsvangwa and starkly refused to accept Dube, whom they accused of being an “elite war veteran, who contributed to their problems and therefore is not qualified to talk about our welfare”.
The war veterans claimed that Dube was not a member of their organisation and as such, he did not identify with them.
ZNLWVA secretary general, Victor Matemadanda, said the association had serious reservations with Dube.
“We have serious reservations on him. He is not even a member of our association, so there is no way he can have an interest in our welfare issues. The fact that he is a war veteran does not necessarily make him an automatic member of the association. It has a membership that is applied for, subscribed for and abided to and he is not any of those,” Matemadanda said.
He said Dube not qualify to lead the association which he showed his back on when he was attested into the military at the end of the gruelling liberation war in 1980.
Dube seemed to have touched a raw nerve when he was quoted in the press saying the war veterans needed to convene an extraordinary congress to elect a new chairman to replace Mutsvangwa.
He has since denied ever making the statements, but that has done little to appease the raging anger among the easily offended former freedom fighters.
“The reason for forming this association was to look at the welfare of war veterans who had been abandoned by their leaders, Tshinga Dube included. So we do not expect him to strive to better our lives because they enjoy it that way, to see a gap between them and the lower war veteran. It’s almost institutional that you must have that upper class and a lower class for the purpose of continuously abusing and using us.
“We are saying yes, Tshinga Dube has become a minister of a ministry under which our affairs fall, but we do not expect anything from him or any of his kind who put a rift between the foot soldier and the people in high command. The big bosses who got better positions in the army and police at independence decided to group together and not to mix with lower ranks and this killed the spirit of comradeship between senior officers and the juniors. Tshinga Dube belongs to those senior officers who contributed to the situation we are in now. They never advocated for our welfare, concentrating instead on their promotions,” fumed Matemadanda.
A former ZIPRA guerrilla fighter, Dube joined the army in 1980, rising through the ranks to become a Colonel before he quit to venture into fulltime politics.
For years, he contested for the Makokoba National Assembly seat in Bulawayo without success until he won a by-election in June last year.
Dube also appears not to have done himself a disfavour by suggesting that a meeting of ZNLWA members, which was slated for this week, might not happen anytime soon.
The war veterans took this as betrayal.
An emotional Matemadanda said: “We can see that he is excited by this ministerial appointment. The first thing he does as soon as he gets into office is to cancel our meeting which we had planned and the President had agreed to attend. He thinks it is for him to now organise the meeting of an association he is not involve with. We have not invited him anyway. Why does he invite himself? We invited only members. It was a general membership meeting and he is not a member.
“He thinks he can manage our association to an extent of cancelling our association meetings without consulting us. It tells us what we have known and expected from a person of his thinking; they don’t consider us as people, hence make decisions without consulting us,” he added.
Asked if by those sentiments he meant war veterans had lost confidence in President Mugabe as the appointing authority, Matemadanda said: “We don’t care about appointments. That is the prerogative of the President. He knows he appointed him. What we are saying is that if he is there to serve us, he should first understand us and what we stand for, not try to give us orders like we are in some military battalion. We don’t take orders from him. He better knows that,” said Matemadanda, banging a table with his fist.
He also said the war veterans’ meeting was still on and members would be advised about the dates and venue once everything was in place.
Asked about the legitimacy of a splinter group formed by the association’s former spokesperson, Mandi Chimene, Matemadanda said it was a “trivial” organisation which was doomed to fail.
“They want to be leaders, but who do they lead? If they think they have people, let them call for a gathering. The biggest meeting they ever had was in Bulawayo and their vice chairman (George Mlala) addressed 30 people at the same time that our provincial chairman there was addressing over 200,” he charged.
Dube confirmed he was not a ZNLWA member but said that did not disqualify him for the ministerial appointment.
“If they believe that someone who is not a member of their association cannot be a minister, then they are wrong,” he hit back in an interview with the Financial Gazette on Tuesday.
“If they are questioning the appointing authority, then they should take their concerns to the President. I am a war veteran. No one can take that away from me. They cannot question my credentials as a freedom fighter. After all there are many war veterans out there who are not members of the association,” Dube said.
He also denied ever cancelling the war veterans meeting as alleged by Matemadanda, saying he had only postponed it because President Mugabe, who is the patron of the association, was out of the country.
“The former minister had said the meeting would take place this Friday (tomorrow) and at the weekend. Things suddenly changed. I was sworn in and the President announced he would be going to India and would not be back until March 14. I said we have to postpone it because there is no way he would be in India and here at the same time. This also gives us time to make proper arrangements for the meeting and put all logistics in place,” he said.
Asked to explain if it was his duty to organise a meeting for the association he does not belong to, Dube said: “Once they say they want the President to be part of the meeting, it becomes the ministry’s responsibility to organise it. We are working daily to put things in order.”
The Financial Gazette is also reliably informed that Dube was moving to pacify sour relations that have developed between Mutsvangwa and Chimene.
Ultimately, the two were yesterday scheduled to attend a meeting he would chair in Harare, with Chimene understood to have travelled to Harare from her Mutare base on Tuesday for the meeting.
Dube however declined to comment on the nature of the meeting, preferring only to say: “We are in conflict resolution and we are not taking any fights.”
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