Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Zimbabwe War Veterans’ Indaba Was No Talk-show
April 11, 2016
Lovemore Ranga Mataire Senior Writer
Zimbabwe Herald

Far from being just a talk-show, the war veterans’ indaba with President Mugabe lived up to its billing as it succinctly located the morass behind the current seemingly endless factional wars bedevilling the revolutionary ZANU-PF party. While those who perennially exhibit anti-war veterans sentiments were quick to dismiss the event as a no-show, the meeting was in fact an historic occasion whose essence was to realign and reconnect ZANU-PF with its foundational ideological ethos that have thus far sustained it.

Despite earlier organisational glitches associated with convening such a momentous event, the indaba had all the petals and pageantry of an enduring occasion whose implications would be far reaching in redirecting the party back to its soul.

It was the first time in the history of ZANU PF, for a group aligned to it — be it a wing or an affiliate — to be able to rally more than 10 000 delegates around a singular purpose of redeeming the party’s adorned image as a party of liberation.

It was also the first time in 36 years that war veterans had met with their patron in a no-holds-barred meeting where they expressed their apparent discontent about developments that seem to have taken root in the revolutionary party.

The indaba will be remembered as one such occasion that reconnected and remobilised former freedom fighters who last had contact during the demobilisation period. Away from the sentimental reconnection of old comrades, the indaba reasserted the comrades’ organisational capacity which was punctuated by military like precision.

The enduring aspect of the meeting was reflected in issues tabled by war veterans as thematic concerns before their patron President Mugabe who occasionally nodded in agreement as presentations were being made.

Anyone present would surely not have missed the profundity, conviction and the gusto in which the presentations were made. Not surprisingly, it was not the issue of welfare or the need for empowerment of war veterans that got the loudest applause.

It seemed the war veterans were conscious of the need to prune out the chalice that threatened to make the ruling ZANU-PF dysfunctional before clamouring for affirmative action to address personal needs.

Thus the issues that got the loudest approval from the delegates were issues to do with the party ideology and the threats to the revolutionary party.

The fundamental issues that seem to be at the core of the war veterans concern the issue of the party’s ideology.

In their view, the ideological foundation of ZANU-PF as a socialist based party was sacrosanct as it had managed to glue together members from cosmopolitan backgrounds before, during and after the liberation struggle.

While it is given that just like any living being, ideological ethos are sometimes aligned with the prevailing dynamics the core values of ZANU-PF as a pro-poor and pro-majority party remain unshakeable.

It is for that reason that at independence, it embraced the Leadership Code, education for all, health for all, the land reform and indigenisation programmes all aimed empowering the previously marginalized majority.

While the Leadership Code has somewhat been overtaken by circumstances, other initiatives remain alive and have been the cornerstone upon which the revolutionary party has been able to withstand the onslaught by its detractors coming in sorts of forms- both external and internal.

All over the world political parties are sustained and glued together by ideology.

That is precisely the reason why in United States the Democrats and the Republicans, in England we have the Labour Party and the Conservative and in China we have the Communist Party, which despite refashioning its foundational ethos, its ideology has remained the glue that binds its membership.

Thus in highlighting the issue of ideology, the war veterans were concerned there seem to be nonchalant attitude from some of its membership in understanding, appreciating and applying the foundational ethos that have sustained the parties — ZANU and ZAPU before their unity.

Quoting the party’s constitution, article 2 section 11, which states of the need: “To establish and sustain a socialist society firmly based on our historical, cultural and societal experience and to create conditions for economic independence, prosperity and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation in a system of economic organisation and management in which elements of free enterprise and market economy, planned economy and public ownership are combined,” rationalised that ZANU PF is a mass Party guided by this ideology as stipulated in its Constitution.

Of major concern to the comrades was that in pursuance of the party’s foundational ideological thrust, there seem to be limitations on the implementation of numerous congress and conference resolutions on the establishment of the Chitepo Ideological College whose absence has created lack of understanding of the party’s ideological standing, rampant indiscipline by party leaders and cadres, incessant expulsions and suspensions that threaten the integrity of the party, lack of unity of purpose and loyalty to the party culminating in lack of patriotism to the nation and ultimately the creation of factional groups and individual Godfathers that threaten to split the party into unattainable numerous factional groupings.

It is indeed not in doubt that the life of any revolutionary movement is defined by its ability to continue attracting new membership through an enduring ideological framework, it seemed ZANU PF has slacked in providing a rigorous orientation process in the aftermaths of the liberation struggle.

The absence of such a rigorous foundational induction or orientation process has resultantly led to failure by new comrades to entrench and emotionally attach to the party’s belief system and in turn have become easy instruments for manipulation.

The majority of such members exhibit serious hedonistic tendencies driven by lack of understanding and appreciation of the party’s ideology.

It was such new members who have imported a new hedonistic culture with the revolutionary party to the extent of coining slogans and songs which have no linkage with the ideological standing of the party. Conscious of the divisiveness of such slogans and songs, the war veterans recommended that all party slogans and songs be submitted first to the Central Committee before being used as was the case in the past.

One of the issues that also needed clarity was the relationship between the war veterans and revolutionary party, which seem to have been placed on the peripheral space of being a mere affiliate body whose influence is merely lobby based. Using Mao’s fish and water concept, the war veterans highlighted the fact that the party’s supremacy over the gun was premised on the fact that the two share the same ideological convictions. It is for this reason that Cde Munyaradzi Machacha who presented on party ideology advanced the view that, “during the liberation struggle, the military institution, (the gun) had representation in the Central Committee and the National Executive of ZANU (as exemplified by the inclusion of) Cdes Josiah Tongogara, Josiah Tungamirai, Solomon Mujuru and Justin Chauke and others.”

This scenario though not enshrined in the party’s constitution was maintained at independence with Cdes Mujuru and Tungamirai being members of both the party’s Politburo and Central Committee. The same phenomenon is also prevalent in so-called modern democracies including in China where the Secretary for Commissariat in the Politburo of the Communist Party of China is the head of the Commissariat of the People’s Liberation Army.

In essence, the war veterans were calling for the establishment of a symbiotic relationship between the gun and politics that result in sustainable peace and stability and fostering a non-antagonistic environment under the ZANU PF flagship. The war veterans assertions were also guided and strengthened by President Mugabe’s Radio Maputo address at the twilight of the liberation struggle in which he stated that, “our votes must go together with our guns. After all, any vote we shall have been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer- its guarantor.”

The preamble to the ZANU PF constitution further clarifies this symbiotic relationship as it states that: “Whereas we the people of Zimbabwe acknowledge the role played by the Zimbabwe Revolutionary War Fighters of the Second Chimurenga and those who died whilst fighting the colonial enemy and those that are still alive and the fact that they will forever be the custodians of the Zimbabwean revolution and the bedrock upon which the ZANU PF Party will continue building itself from;”

It will thus be in contravention of the party’s constitution to regard war veterans as peripheral to the daily management given their status as the bedrock of the party. In order to settle the somewhat inordinate situation, the meeting suggested the setting up of a War Veterans Wing within the party structures.

The sterile argument perennially peddled anti-war veterans charlatans that war veterans are the cannon fodder readily available for use by the ruling party is erroneous and devoid a clear understanding of their standing in society. It must be noted that independence is not an event but a process and in the post-colonial Zimbabwe, war veterans have remained as bastions of defence whenever the country is under-threat from some retrogressive external and internal forces. It is only at critical epochs in the country’s post-colonial trajectory that war veterans intuitively come to the defence of the liberation ideals.

Consequently, their indaba with their patron who is also the President and First Secretary of ZANU PF must also be read as one such similar milestone where the war veterans have stood up to defend and reassert the foundational ethos that gave birth to independent Zimbabwe. Anyone dismissing the indaba as a mere talk-show is either blinkered by an inherent anti-war veteran amnesia or suffers from a serious historical amnesia.

It is not a wishful thinking for war veterans to call for the overhaul of the Commissariat Department and the setting up of the Revolutionary Council whose membership will comprise of the Presidency and some war veterans. The fact that President Mugabe did not respond to such issues cannot be insipidly interpreted as non-issues. These were clearly sensitive matters needing more than off-the cuff responses but would not to be dealt with in more measured and all-inclusive manner.

In summation, the war veterans’ indaba was crucial in reminding the revolutionary party that the factional fights currently playing out in the party are symptomatic of serious undercurrents that threaten its cohesiveness and the implementation of its well-intentioned pro-majority policies and programmes.

The war veterans managed to locate the real morass behind the factional wars as more than just succession battles but the lack of a rigorous orientation of new members into the structures of the party.

In the absence of the real strategy to critically orient new members to have a deeper emotional attachment of the party’s ideological principles, there was bound to be a clash between the new and the old.

Zanu-PF also need to seriously introspect about its membership that have joined politics motivated by narrow selfish ends as reflected by their construction of a patronage system that in turn malign and marginalise those that resist those machinations. A patronage system creates the impression that you are either with or against us and has a serious destabilising effect. A patronage system creates fiefdoms that create fertile grounds for abuse of power and corruption.

The party also needs to address the issue of how it can create tangible space for youths to have a voice in the trajectory of the party including considering having a quota similar to that of women. Different cluster groups must be able to bring to the plenary tangible solutions that match realities on the ground.

No amount of any political skullduggery can smudge certain apparent home truths that formed the praxis of the indaba. First, the indaba spiritually and physically reconnected ZANU PF to the ‘source’ and that unshakeable ‘source’ is the liberation struggle, which was won by the gun. The indaba put to shreds the idea that war veterans have significantly reduced in numbers. While a sizeable number of the combatants have died, there is still large number of the comrades alive. Essentially, the indaba reinforced that the liberation spirit was eternal. The indaba articulated the undying and enduring tenets that have made ZANU PF such a revolutionary ‘poster-boy’ party within the region and beyond. The indaba also proved beyond doubt the exceptional organizational capacity of war veterans as a disciplined reserve force and that they are an unshakeable constituency of the revolutionary party.

Going forward, the war veterans still have a lot to do in terms of also redeeming their own image, which over the years seem to have lost its patina. As highlighted by one Nathaniel Manheru, what needs to be addressed is a lingering, anti-war veteran sentiment planted and cultivated by Rhodesians which now periodically resurfaces in national politics. There is need to address the serious disconnection that has taken place in ZANU PF due to the incompatibility of two new civilizations. Whereas war veterans must be able to reproduce themselves literally and figuratively, there seem to be serious orchestrated efforts to stunt and undermine such efforts.

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