President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s advisor Chris Mutsvangwa is fighting attempts to unseat him as leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA by opponents emboldened by ructions within the ruling Zanu PF party.
Mutsvangwa, who is battling to regain his Norton seat in a primary poll re-run after being hammered by Langton Mutendereki, is already in a weakened position since he lashed out at his boss Mnangagwa and also the party’s national political commissar, Engelbert Rugeje, for his election defeat.
The Daily News can report rivals in at least three Mashonaland provincial executives of ZNLWVA are agitating for a no-confidence vote in Mutsvangwa.
The war veterans chairperson, who has not said whether he will step down voluntarily before his current term ends, has reportedly been deserted by several prominent allies in the war veterans body since ascending to the President’s Office as adviser to Mnangagwa after the military-assisted ouster of former president Robert Mugabe, amid reports he had become detached from them, and seemingly ignoring their concerns.
That sentiment has been cemented after the carnage suffered by war veterans in the Zanu PF primaries, where several of them were defeated and there was silence of the grave from their leadership.
In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Mutsvangwa poured cold water on his reported imminent ouster.
He said there was no way he could be relieved of his post by people from the street.
“Why do you get excited by frivolous things posted on social media? How can a person with no locus standi remove me from power? Only a congress and bona fide chairmen can do that,” he said.
“Before pursuing such a frivolous matter you ask yourself if such a matter is worth your salt as a journalist,” added Mutsvangwa.
Mutsvangwa’s arch-rival, Norton independent Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa, who is a former Mashonaland West Zanu PF provincial chairperson, alleged on microblogging site on Wednesday that the ZNLWVA boss was drowning.
“Was raining, now pouring for Mutsvangwa as Mash West war veterans executive withdraw him from ZNLWVA national executive,” Mliswa said.
“The war veterans accuse Mutsvangwa of being self-centred and only turning to them when things go sour for him personally.”
ZNLWVA chairperson for Mashonaland West province Cornelius Muoni told the Daily News:
“My executive never sat to deliberate on such an issue and I don’t know where you are getting that information.”
Efforts to get clarification from Mashonaland Central ZNLWVA chairperson Sam Parirenyatwa on the matter did not yield much.
Parirenyatwa said he was not in a position to comment on Mutsvangwa’s fate because he was locked up in an undisclosed meeting.
In an earlier interview with this paper, he had claimed that he was unaware of Mutsvangwa’s purported ouster.
Parirenyatwa, however, tellingly revealed that Mnangagwa had scheduled a meeting today with war veterans but could not disclose the agenda.
ZNLWVA secretary-general Victor Matemadanda said he was yet to get finer details what the hullaballoo was all about.
“I am hearing the news from the media, you are the second journalist to ask me about that today but I have no idea where it is coming from. I am trying to get in touch with the chairperson to find out,” Matemadanda said.
Factionalism and tribalism in Zanu PF has always been a source of divisions and splits in ZNLWVA since the turn of the millennium.
First was a split engineered by Wilfred Mhanda (now late) who broke away to form the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, which was formed by war vets in 2000 in protest at the anarchy that accompanied government-sponsored seizure of commercial farmland from mainly white farmers who were accused of backing the newly-formed MDC party.
In 2011, influential politicians in Zanu PF had attempted to dethrone Jabulani Sibanda, who led the association after the death of its founding chairperson, Chenjerai Hunzvi.
The anti-Sibanda camp was a rag-tag team of war veterans led by Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba, who alleged the ZNLWVA leader had irregularly dismissed provincial chairpersons from five of the country’s 10 provinces without the national executive’s consent.
At the time, Sibanda was linked to a Zanu PF faction led by Mnangagwa, who was the ruling party’s secretary for legal affairs and Defence minister.
Those who were demanding his ouster were said to be aligned to a camp linked to the late retired army general, Solomon Mujuru.
The two factions are reportedly fighting silent internal battles to succeed Mugabe.
While the plot did not succeed at the time, in 2011 there was a simmering fallout within the war veterans association amid calls for the launch of a grouping of the war veterans led by Manicaland war veteran and former army colonel, Shadreck Beta.
Beta was pushing for the formation of a non-partisan organisation to represent the former freedom fighters.
He set up what he called the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Co-ordinating Committee to spearhead the project.
Sibanda was eventually ousted in 2014 after he accused former first lady Grace Mugabe of staging a bedroom coup on Mugabe.
Then, the source of the problem was the succession war between Mnangagwa and former vice president Joice Mujuru.
The ouster of Sibanda was followed by the rise of Mutsvangwa, who fought in Mnangagwa’s corner along with the Team Lacoste faction in the debilitating succession battle.
Mutsvangwa’s rise was not without drama as another faction of war veterans backing the Generation 40 faction and led by George Mlala claimed leadership of the association despite a court ruling that Mutsvangwa’s executive was bona fide.
Fast forward to this year, Mutsvangwa is under the cosh from his former comrades who accuse him of being egocentric after the motor-mouth special adviser claimed the Zanu PF primary elections had been a sham.
This came in the aftermath of his loss in the Norton constituency primary elections.