ACTING President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday distanced himself from war veterans, who, all along, had put their heads on the block backing him to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the ongoing acrimonious Zanu PF succession fight.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters at a rally for the ruling party’s Bikita West parliamentary by-election candidate, Beauty Chabaya, at Nyika business centre, Mnangagwa described his so-called war veteran allies as “lost and wayward elements” bent on fanning divisions.
“In 2018, we will have national elections. All the provinces endorsed President Mugabe as our party candidate,” he said.
“Yet we hear some few war veterans – three or four of them, who are lost and wayward – are going to the private Press and saying something else, yet they were fired from Zanu PF.
“The party of war veterans is Zanu PF, but there are a few that are lost. War veterans are children of Zanu PF, but the party reigns supreme. The party commands the gun, not the other way around.”
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association led by Christopher Mutsvangwa, has publicly declared its allegiance to Mnangagwa and touted him as Mugabe’s legitimate heir.
Mutsvangwa and his lieutenants have openly called for Mugabe, who has already been endorsed as Zanu PF’s candidate for the 2018 presidential race, to step down and pave way for his deputy.
Mugabe will be 94 in 2018.
But, yesterday Mnangagwa, who denied harbouring ambitions to succeed Mugabe, disowned Mutsvangwa’s group of former fighters.
Contacted for comment over Mnangagwa’s remarks, Mutsvangwa chose to be diplomatic.
“That is the Zanu PF position and, as vice-president of the party, he cannot say anything to the contrary. We do not have much to say on the issue,” Mutsvangwa said.
While admitting Bikita West “regularly changes hands”, Mnangagwa urged his party’s supporters to ensure it would be retained after the ruling party’s elected lawmaker, Munyaradzi Kereke, was jailed for rape last year.
“This constituency regularly changes hands, but we want it to remain in the hands of Zanu PF,” the Vice-President said.
Mnangagwa also sought to absolve Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, following Zanu PF’s loss in the Norton by-election to independent candidate, Temba Mliswa, last year.
“The burden (of losing) does not lie with the commissar, but the people, including you as Zanu PF members and voters,” he said.
Mnangagwa revealed the government had imported 643 000 metric tonnes of maize out of the required 700 000 metric tonnes to avert starvation.
Amid reports by human rights groups and opposition parties that government apparatchiks were distributing food in a partisan manner and using Zanu PF structures, Mnangagwa said all those in need should receive food despite their political affiliation.
“Food aid should not be given on partisan lines. The President said no one should die of hunger, so you should give everyone,” he said.
Six candidates – Zimbabwe People First’s Kudakwashe Gopo, Madock Chivasa (National Constitutional Assembly), Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe’s Tanyaradzwa Makumbo and two independents, Heya Shoko and Innocent Muzvimbiri – will battle Chabaya in the by-election slated for January 21.