Former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda does not mince his words. He describes Zanu PF as an elective autocracy and monarch.
Sibanda wants President Robert Mugabe to openly apologise for the Gukurahundi atrocities and medals awarded to Fifth Brigade commanders who led the campaign withdrawn.
In a recent interview with NewsDay (ND) senior reporter Richard Chidza, Sibanda (JS) also claimed the 2008 post-election violence was caused by a third force not war veterans that he led at the time. Below are excerpts;
ND: You were dismissed from Zanu PF ahead of the party’s congress last year, what have you been up to?
JS: I was not dismissed towards last year’s congress but in 2004 and I have made appeals to the central committee with no response even to congress, which was still pending.
But then I started working for the party because there are things that resonated with me like the land issue and the issue of self-determination.
I did not work with Zanu PF because I was chairperson of the war veterans.
Along the way my work was recognised by the party and I was drafted into the Zanu PF mobilisation committee that included Emmerson Mnangagwa, Stan Mudenge, Webster Shamu, Oppah Muchinguri, Absolom Skhosana, Sydney Sekeramayi and chaired by Didymus Mutasa.
The issue of how Zanu PF could win elections without violence and coercion was discussed at some of this committee’s meetings.
We were a nation on the brink of foreign intervention because of violence during elections, we were a very upset society but you will remember that the March elections in 2008 were very peaceful.
ND: But the June elections?
JS: The June (presidential runoff) elections were characterised by violence but it was not the war veterans.
We were not involved. It was a third force but I am not going to tell you who, it is for you to find out.
After that disaster the war veterans went out for almost five years preaching peace.
There were all sorts of stories that Sibanda was killing people but I am glad that even MDC-T MPs raised these issues in Parliament and agreed I never caused any violence.
ND: Going back to the issue of the third force, did you sit in any meeting in which it was discussed?
JS: I cannot sit in a meeting where people agree to go and maim ordinary citizens.
Do not forget I come from Matabeleland.
I speak Ndebele, I am not Ndebele, you speak Shona, you are not Shona and I know what this means given the history of this country from the 1980s.
That is what I believe. Do not forget that I am former Zipra. I would never sit in a meeting (planning violence) and will never subscribe or advocate for violence.
I will do everything in my power to make sure that free and fair elections are held and that political parties are allowed to sell their policies and people are allowed to make choices freely.
That is why I still contend that the 2013 elections were free and fair.
ND: You were expelled in 2004 but retained your position as chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association?
JS: War veterans are not Zanu PF, the reports that they fired me last year in December is a lie. The Shona word is “varikundidzingirira”, because you cannot fire a fired man. That was the height of foolishness; they showed they do not follow the law.
They could not expel me as war veterans’ leader because it is a civic organisation that was affiliated to Zanu PF and what we fought for is in the party constitution.
But Zanu PF has become an elective autocracy; it has become a danger to society, it has become more dangerous than a monarchy.
They force people to elect them and those that differ are expelled.
ND: Now, let’s talk abour your removal from the war veterans leadership.
JS: Supposed because it is up to us to challenge it or not. There was no congress in Masvingo, you must find another word for it.
If it was a congress then the current leadership including the provincial executives would have been asked to convene a congress.
Nobody has raised that. How could it be called a congress when a military general announced that the war veterans’constitution had been suspended? Who was he to suspend a constitution registered with the Ministry of Labour? We are not affiliated to the army but to Zanu PF.
ND: But are war veterans not a reserve force?
JS: Who said that, we cannot be governed by what people say or by personal opinions. We want to be governed by the rule of law.
ND: Did you have a chance to meet President Robert Mugabe before events leading to last year’s congress?
JS: He accused me of all sorts of things and I cannot be seen to condemn a 91-year-old man.
I would say he was misinformed. He was supposed to balance what he heard and what I did. He should have called me to a hearing.
Instead he went public and attacked me including threatening to unleash the army on me after which I was arrested.
ND: But you also accused the First Family of staging a “bedroom coup”?
JS: That case is before the courts and I cannot say much. It will be clarified as time goes on.
It would have been better if they had allowed me to air my side of the story and the question is what is it that you are afraid to hear.
You know you have done something wrong and you do not want the world to know these things.
But the world already knows. We know a lot of things that have gone wrong but we have stomached these.
Nine members of my family were killed by the Fifth Brigade and I was tortured ,but we continued to work for the revolutionary party.
ND: You were recently quoted as advocating for a coalition among opposition forces, does it imply that you are now in the opposition camp?
JS: I was not calling for a coalition.
ND: You want a party?
JS: I want something better than that. We are the only country without its own currency and 90% of our people are not working, there are no pension schemes and the few who are working are not paid.
That spells disaster for the future. There are no plans to remedy the situation but accusations.
Now they are accusing the Indians and Nigerians for causing the vendors menace.
Let us go back to the fuel shortages era. How many fuel import licences were issued?
When the Zanu PF politburo is sitting there, it is an oil procurement committee — all of them have licences.
They create a situation and use that situation to make money for themselves. The same as the Bureau de Changes — the same people owned them. Nobody could provide an answer when we asked this at the Chinhoyi conference.
It is a scandal that the leading figures in the party have turned into criminals. Our people have been cheated, nobody can believe that the Zanu PF party that organised a war to fight for universal sufferage is denying the same people their right to vote.
ND: Have there been any discussions between you and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai?
JS: I talk to anyone but it is no longer about who is talking to who but finding a solution. I do not have to talk to Tsvangirai himself.
ND: Do you believe former Vice-President Joice Mujuru wanted Mugabe assassinated?
JS: My answer would be in the form of a question. Does Mugabe believe that?
ND: I suppose he believes given how he reacted.
JS: My friend, you do not know Mugabe. This is the man who stayed in prison for 10 years, crossed the border into Mozambique where he became a co-leader of the revolution.
He received good news and bad news, dead bodies and maimed comrades. After independence he deployed soldiers in peace keeping missions all over the world.
He knows peace is easy to disturb but very difficult to put together. This is the same Mugabe who deployed his best soldiers to get DRC’s Laurent Kabila body after he was killed by his own.
He denied all reports that Kabila was dead until the situation was stable. I agreed with him and I am proud of him on that one.
So you want to tell me this man that I have been describing believes that a dead frog will depose a President?
Mugabe does not believe that and he said this himself in Victoria Falls where he said “stupid Mujuru thinks witchcraft works.”
The question would be why is Mugabe, who does not believe these things, acting the way he is now?
ND: Is he in charge?
JS: I do not know whether he is in charge of his faculties even.
I do not want to believe that Mugabe is a tribalist; because Nicholas Goche who is accused of having sought to hire snipers to kill Mugabe is sitting at his house but Sibanda who is accused of insulting the President is locked up with no bail.
Is it selective justice that a Ndebele who allegedly insulted him is jailed? The thing is this is a façade, Mugabe knows it is a lie that Mujuru did not do anything, knows Goche never sought to kill him and also knows that Jabulani did not insult him.
The thing is the people running the country’s judiciary; are also in charge of the party’s disciplinary procedures and do you expect them to deliver justice?
ND: How do you see the future?
JS: The situation is bleak and you should understand that the civil wars that are going on across the world are caused by simple things. People are not like water in a pond that when you step on it, it splashes all over the place.
They are like a spring such that when they are stepped on the coil, come together before reacting and that is dangerous.
The allegations that some powerful people are behind the vendors menace is nonsense, people are selling their own clothes for survival and I talked to an old lady who told me she has had no water and power for months while her grandchildren are not attending school, let alone food.
ND: So you are implying government is stepping on people’s toes?
JS: They are using military muscle. Now we hear that vendors’ wares have been torched but people should not forget who threatened vendors first.
It was not the municipality but the military in the form of a commander of the Presidential Guard and that is telling.
ND: So what is likely to happen?
JS: You think people are stupid; one thing will lead to another.
You think the Somalis want war, you think they are not educated because they have not been to Harare? Look at the situation in Libya, we have a situation where there is debate over legality and legitimacy of a government because now we have two there.
We should avoid that; let us consider the plight of the power. Sovereignty is not about the State but the people. We are not a monarchy where you have a sovereign king and subjects.
ND: Are you implying that Mugabe has turned Zimbabweans into his subjects?
JS: I do not think he has but if in his own party contrary views are regarded as enemies, if in his party the right to vote has been abolished and if he has described those against him as gamatox and he is working with weevils to destroy the gamatox then you can make your own assessment.
ND: What role does the military play in the country’s political matrix?
JS: It would be foolish for any soldier to support what is happening. They have families and I think the current situation is affecting everyone negatively. The security forces are affected just like all of us.
ND: But the opposition is in disarray?
JS: The opposition is never a party, the opposition is the people. If you think the opposition is in disarray you know nothing.
The people of this country are more united than they have ever been, even better than they were during the armed struggle. Take this from me!