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Ex-commanders back Tsvangirai

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Former members of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) High Command have poured cold water over repeated threats by army generals not to allow a candidate without liberation war credentials to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

Report by Richard Muponde Senior Reporter

The generals first made the threats on the eve of the 2002 presidential elections where they claimed the Office of the President was “a straitjacket”.

Subsequent threats were issued in 2008, leading to one of the most violent election campaigns in history that was blamed on security forces.

Several army commanders, including Brigadier-Generals Trust Mugoba, Douglas Nyikayaramba and Martin Chedondo, this year issued statements saying no party other than Zanu PF would be allowed to rule Zimbabwe.

The statements were seen as aimed at Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who poses the greatest threat to Mugabe’s ambitions to rule perpetually.

But the ex-Zipra members yesterday broke their silence warning the security forces to respect the one-man, one-vote principle.

“Of late among other things, Zimbabweans and former freedom fighters are perturbed about pronouncements in the media regarding the choice of the country’s future leaders,” the former commanders said in a statement published in yesterday’s newspapers.

“The generally expressed view has been that ex-combatants shall recognise only those leaders who have liberation war credentials.

“The position of the former Zipra High Command is that we will support the person who respects the ideals and values of the liberation struggle.

“One who recognises that the effort to liberate the country was premised on the concept of one-man, one-vote to be a democratic principle which respects the will of the people will carry the support of former freedom fighters.

“Nationalist leaders, the likes of Joshua Nkomo and others, worked tirelessly for this principle.”

According to the statement, the position was taken at a recent meeting of the former commanders.

The Zipra High Command co-ordinated PF Zapu’s military training and acquisition of arms under the stewardship of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.

The MDC-T immediately seized on the pronouncement by the ex-Zipra commanders saying the party was committed to ensuring the welfare of ex-fighters once it got into power.

“We commend such an unwavering standpoint on the values and principles guiding the war of liberation which those in Zanu PF structures sought to desecrate and disrespect in pursuit of selfish personal partisan interests,” the MDC-T said in a statement.

“The continued total disregard of surviving heroes during national events such as the Heroes and Independence days, as well as their unwarranted discrimination in the police and the army, is abosolutely disconcerting.

“As we look forward to a new Zimbabwe, we remain grounded in the values and principles of democracy, peace, stability and national security of our country as ascribed in your unbridled resolve.”

The ex-Zipra commanders also said they hoped the recent tour of Matabeleland by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, would see the government resolving a number of grievances that former liberation fighters led by Nkomo had.

They said the visit generated hope for the return of Zipra properties confiscated by Mugabe’s government in 1982 during the Gukurahundi disturbances.

“The return of the properties and title deeds will definitely restore peace and unity,” the commanders said.

“The properties belong to the former Zipra cadres and their welfare would have been better off had they been economically utilised for their benefit.”

The ex-commanders said 32 years after independence, 75% of the ex-Zipra cadres had not received recognition, honours, awards and liberation medals for their efforts in liberating the country.

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