War veterans accost US ambassador

Zanu PF activists and war veterans on Thursday hijacked a function officiated by United States ambassador Charles Ray in Chegutu in a bid to drive their anti-sanctions campaign.

The placard-carrying war veterans picketed the ambassador and his entourage as they arrived at Mupfure Self-Help College to donate books.

Mupfure is in Chegutu East constituency, whose MP is Webster Shamu, the Media, Information and Publicity minister and Zanu PF political commissar.

The war veterans, who appeared geared for a major showdown with the ambassador, led a procession of slogan-chanting and singing activists trying all they could to make Ray read their anti-sanctions placards which denounced his country and its Western allies.

Early this month, President Robert Mugabe launched a campaign to denounce the sanctions imposed by Western countries on him and his senior party officials.

One of the war veterans, Charles Guruve, declared: “We don’t want his books here, but what we want is for his country to remove the sanctions affecting ordinary Zimbabweans.”

However, the ambassador who appeared unperturbed by the incessant taunts by the war veterans calmly proceeded with his programme.
The ambassador told the demonstrators:

“There is a saying that goes like, ‘I might not agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the grave your right to say it whether or not I agree.

“I have said on a number of occasions that only 130 people are targeted out of 14 million. To say ordinary people are affected is something else,” he said.

Shamu was conspicuous by his absence although he had initially confirmed his attendance.

The war veterans gate-crashed into the hall where the function was being held and plastered its walls with their posters while others occupied seats reserved for guests.

As if that were not enough, they followed the ambassador during his tour of the college, waving their placards.

Guruve said he had driven all the way from Harare for a showdown with the ambassador after learning of his planned visit to Chegutu.

War veterans have of late been hijacking private functions by Western diplomats to drive their party’s anti-sanctions campaign.

Recently, they caused commotion in Manicaland where a function addressed by a representative of the British ambassador, Mark Canning, almost turned nasty.

Ray said the donation of books to Mupfure College was one of the many pledges by US President Barak Obama to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai when the Premier visited Washington in 2009.

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