The recent tribulations that have befallen Cde Chris Mutsvangwa suggest that his and his patron’s diplomatic touch, not to mention decorum, may be deserting the ageing and fading liberation war icons.
That is sad. The history of the Republic to be bequeathed to future generations deserves to read better. The war veteran leadership needs to ask the question: Since when is a civet cat skinned in public?
That there is need for the war veterans’ association leadership to exchange ideas and notes with their patron is evident. The country’s massive food, nutrition and income insecurity crisis is testimony to that. And at the centre of this may ironically be a diplomatic crisis that Ambassador Mutsvangwa’s skills, deployed properly, could help address. And then, of course, there is corruption that needs urgent, robust, no-prisoners-taken tackling.
As President Robert Mugabe said in his State of the Nation Address, liberation war icons head most government departments, including the Presidency. These government departments under veterans’ leadership include the security cluster. The judiciary has its fair share of ex-combatants as well. Who then can be blamed if corruption and lack of traction on the diplomatic front combine to imperil the welfare of not only liberation war veterans, but the generality of the deathly silent, but wailing masses?
In what may be a cry for help, the patron alleges that the nation may have lost $15 billion from the Chiadzwa diamond fields. That should be the number one agenda item in a private and confidential meeting between the veterans and their patron. It is the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association’s privilege and good fortune that one of their own is both their patron and State President. He, thus, enjoys wide powers, which, with the support of the association, should be harnessed to recover the missing billions.
The estimated $15bn looks like a wild over-estimate, but one must be aware the President’s information sources may include his foreign counterparts, such as President Xi Jinping of China, and their massive intelligence organisations. What more, they may be prepared to assist Zimbabwe to recover part of the lost wealth. This may not be far-fetched as it sounds.
A Chinese billionaire crook that seems to have made his money in Southern Africa is in Chinese custody, and may spill some beans. Switzerland has repatriated some $300 million to Nigeria from former Nigerian military dictator Sani Abasha’s ill-gotten bank accounts. The lesson is where there is will, corruption is not invincible.
So a meeting between the veterans leadership and their patron is long overdue. But the agenda must be appropriate to yield fruit. And it is the obligation of the junior members to suggest well-thought-out viable solutions for digestion. They owe that to their leader and country. The time for cheap party politics and hoodwinking the masses and the average veteran for votes is over. That practice was and is a violation of the ideals of the liberation struggle. Equally repugnant is the deployment of so-called “third forces”, as recently alleged by Jabulani Sibanda, Mutsvangwa’s predecessor, to coerce rural folk to vote as instructed. Let the recent lessons the revolutionary party has learnt in democracy, or the lack of it, be a silver lining around the dark cloud that hovers over the country’s political, social and economic landscapes. It is time to come clean.
An agenda that would be worthy of the meeting could include the following items:
lRecovering the missing billions: Even if a third is recovered with the help of India and China, not only will the association’s members’ welfare be taken care of, but the nation’s debt burden could be considerably reduced. Culprits must be brought to book.
lCreating fiscal space: The veterans know by now that a Welfare ministry without a budget is a double liability. And there are a number of ministries like that. The veterans are properly positioned to suggest a massive trimming of the Executive, ministries, commissions and the Legislature. The savings may just be enough to address their welfare needs, but also to fund service provision and investment that benefits not just the veterans, but the silent masses.
lConcluding the land question: A mere 6 000 white Zimbabwean farmers should not be a threat to a nation of 13 million. They are assets. The veterans should easily find a solution to the problem and propose to their patron a diplomatic solution that heals the nation. Key to this should be restoring value and market forces to the land.
lDiplomatic offensive to end isolation: This should be Ambassador Mutsvangwa’s subject of choice. A few chats with the likes of Foreign minister Lavrov of Russian, Secretary Kerry of the US and the Iranian Foreign minister could open eyes to what diplomacy can achieve
lTransforming the party: Last but by no means least, the party needs urgent transformation to a democratic institution. The veterans should take a look at how other countries approach constitutionalism and how they select party leaders and/or national leaders. The chaos in their party is a disgrace and, unwarranted. Greed, unsporting behaviour and selfishness are at the centre of it all. These are weaknesses that should be alien to a party that started life as a liberation movement. It is a shame.
The new Minister of War Veterans’ role is to organise the meeting and calm tempers. The sooner he brings his comrades to a constructive round table, the better for the nation.