War veterans recently held a Press conference and chided former President Robert Mugabe after the latter turned his back on President Emmerson Mnangagwa on election eve, saying he would not vote for people who tormented him last November.
At the Press conference, the freedom fighters resolved to petition government to withdraw the honour given to Mugabe and rename the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in protest over the veteran politician’s volte-face.
Mugabe then pulled another surprise last week when he endorsed Mnangagwa, saying he now recognised his successor as a legitimate leader born out of an election, a democratic and constitutional process.
NewsDay chief reporter Everson Mushava (ND) at the weekend had a lengthy chat with war veterans spokesperson Douglas Mahiya (DM) to hear if the former combatants have changed their stance on Mugabe.
ND: You recently denounced former President Robert Mugabe because he chose to align himself with opposition parties after the November 2017 events.
Now that Mugabe has come out in support of Mnangagwa, endorsing the Zanu PF leader as the legitimate leader of the country, do you still hold the same views about the former President?
DM: Principles of the revolution are not applied according to levels of the party or structures of the party.
It applies to all of us in the same way.
What Mugabe did to identify himself with the opposition, the enemies of the revolution, at the juncture, he must be judged against that.
It doesn’t follow that because it is Mugabe, and if he does anything wrong, we have to ignore it.
Judgments in the party are done against principle in order to avoid a situation where people would do something wrong today and tomorrow they come saying they have repented and want to reclaim their earlier positions.
Mugabe will be treated like anyone else who left the party and wants to be readmitted into the party.
He has to re-join the party through the cells and rise against through the ranks.
Even during the war, some people like Dzinashe Machingura and Rugare Gumbo were fired and readmitted into the party, using the same process.
It is not bad for Mugabe to realise that he was wrong in that short period of time, but that should not stop us from saying he should not continue to enjoy the full benefits of the person who has been in the party consistently.
Laws of the party are not applied selectively.
ND: War veterans wrote a petition to government to rename Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Now that Mugabe has shifted his position, do you still maintain the same position?
DM: The reason why we decided that was, if he had not made an about-turn; that he being a person who supports the opposition, his name was going to be the first name that was going to be known or heard by someone arriving at the airport. We were now going to give prominence to the opposition.
ND: So you are no longer pushing for its renaming?
DM: When Mugabe faced impeachment, it was the war veterans who held a Press conference first and fired him.
The party followed later; we are doing exactly the same.
We want the airport to be renamed, but the party will undergo a process, dealing with first things first.
War veterans will only accept the position to be taken by the party, but that will not stop us from expressing our views.
ND: Still you haven’t answered the question. In short, are you maintaining that the airport should be renamed?
DM: If wishes were horses, we as poor people who don’t make executive decisions would ride.
The renaming of the airport was done by Kudzai Chipanga (Zanu PF former national youth leader).
It was not after all people who agreed to it.
It was Chipanga who gave a deadline that if it is not done, and no minister would sit at the high table.
Are we going to maintain the G40 vow? The renaming was just a G40 assertion and we are saying: No!
We cannot do that because there would otherwise be no reason why we fought against G40.
ND: So RGM International Airport has to be renamed?
DM: Yes, it has to be renamed.
ND: As war veterans, do you think you can welcome Mugabe and his wife back into the party if such a call was made?
DM: When they worked against Zanu PF, they knew that what they were doing was wrong and now, they are only saying things that he was supposed to have said long back.
Even when they tried to humiliate ED, tried to poison, shoot him or do everything to stop him from ascending to power, they knew that what they were doing was wrong.
We will have to look at them and see if they are walking the talk.
ND: As war veterans, what is your general view of Mnangagwa’s new Cabinet?
DM: It is good; it is inclusive, We have more women and we have young and old people.
It is much better when the Minister of Defence is a war veteran and her deputy (Victor Matemadanda) is also a war veteran; people who have experienced the life of war veterans.
The welfare of war veterans will now be well articulated.
If they fail, the war veterans then will have to find another way.
ND: When Mnangagwa was out of the country, things seemed not to be working well on the economic front, with prices sky-rocketing as cash shortages reigned supreme.
Now that there is a new Cabinet, do you have confidence that things will be stable once more?
DM: The President is only a person and unfortunately the only one holding the highest office in the country, but he can’t achieve anything alone.
Everybody should come on board.
All sectors must cooperate with the President, even the opposition, they must complement the President.
So really, the question of putting a heavy load on the President, because he is a human being like many of us, he doesn’t hold miraculous capabilities to achieve when people create problems for him.
People of Zimbabwe should cooperate with the President.
The price hikes were caused by the world’s rich people who wanted to use their money to influence even the elections.
They wanted to benefit from our resources; you know the issue of the Guptas in South Africa. Those people must co-operate.
ND: At one of your Press conferences, you accused MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa of working with Western imperialists to sabotage Mnangagwa.
Your critics immediately viewed that as an admission that you now realise that Chamisa holds the keys to the country’s economy?
What is your comment?
DM: Capitalists would want to use the opposition as a conduit to continue destabilising the socio and economic situation in the country.
Not that he has got magic, but they will exploit this.
We are saying the fight for elections is between brothers, but Chamisa must come out clean and demonstrate to the people of Zimbabwe that he can do better by bringing in investment or investors like what he was promising before elections.
It will benefit the people than what they are doing to antagonise the political arena, yet people are suffering.