Dear Comrades, Zimbabwe’s Freedom Fighters,
Comradely greetings to you all.
Today I woke up fixated with one matter, and that was the fact that our nation, our beloved Zimbabwe, has its custodians, custodians of which are not being duly recognised and looked after. This is a matter which prompts feelings of anger and frustration within me.
After listening to the statements by both Cde Shorai and Cde Khumalo, I am, explicitly convinced you have finally reached the end of your tether. After you selflessly liberated the country, your sacrifices were sadly not duly recognised and no one economically liberated you. It is only now, when you have decided to liberate yourselves and even though it may have been sooner, there is no better time like the present.
Previously, you innocently entrusted leadership tasks to those individuals who did not form
part of the frontline personnel. You did this in order to enable you to concentrate on the job at hand. Your expectation of these individuals was that they would ensure your welfare and basic needs would be adequately catered for and that the country would acknowledge your contributions. However, and most unfortunately, some of the politicians you trusted deceived you.
Ignorant reference is often to mischievously made which insinuates that the $50,000.00 previously disbursed to you as Freedom Fighters’ compensation in the 1990’s was allocated from the fiscus. This fallacy is a misconception, cunningly crafted by some to cause those who you liberated to feel undue discontent and aggression towards you. Fortunately, there are those amongst us, myself included, who are aware that the money meant as compensation was not from Government coffers, but was secured from donor organisations. However, it is also on record that a great portion of this funding was misappropriated by some errant government agents.
Possibly, due to your innocence as youths during the time of the liberation struggle, you may not have been aware of or able to understand some of these conjectures. However, time has moved on, you have matured and are now able to take stock of and critically analyse the devious actions of some of the people you trusted and what benefit, or lack thereof, that misplaced trust has been to you.
I am fortunate to have worked closely with the late Cde Perence Shiri. He fondly call me his “mujibha” and would request for me to accompany him each time he travelled. It was during such trips where I would take the opportunity to enquire after issues regarding Freedom Fighters. As a senior Freedom Fighter himself, and a simple and humble man, he was able to impeccably articulate and give me elucidation as to the issues and challenges you encountered.
Cde Shiri was the major force behind the election of Cde Jabulani Sibanda as your Chairman during the Congress of that time. Being someone who acutely understood Freedom Fighters at grassroots level, whilst the late Shiri could be found in his high command offices from Monday to Friday, he would, without fail, ensure not to neglect interactions with his fellow Freedom Fighters at grassroots level.
As a youth, I would often lunch with Cdes Perence Shiri, Paradzai Zimondi and Menard Muzariri. Onlookers would frequently question why such senior Freedom Fighters and Security Service Commanders accommodated one so young during these engagements and the senior rankers would laughingly brush off the curiosity. It was during such priceless times, I would be watching, listening and learning.
The reason I digress and highlight these formative insightful occasions, is because it was during such informative encounters where I began to acutely understand and derive much interest on Freedom Fighters’ issues.
The issue of Freedom Fighters’ welfare is no longer solely a ZANU(PF) issue, or particular to any political party for that matter. The resolution of Freedom Fighters’ welfare is a constitutional issue which must be aligned in accordance to sections 23 and 84 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The preamble of our Constitution highlights the liberation war, a war that as Freedom Fighters, you participated in; a fight that you fought. How we handle the treatment of Freedom Fighters’ welfare greatly impacts and has implications on the level of respect we have for our own Constitution of Zimbabwe.
In Parliament, I have reiterated that since 1980, our Government has been comprised of individuals who are not strangers to you and who know you well. A major question therefore is, why have these Comrades, Brothers and Sisters-in-arms, Compatriots and familiar, fellow Freedom Fighters, not conclusively addressed the welfare concerns of Freedom Fighters?
In a shocking and surprising development, Government instead opted to compensate white farmers ahead of Freedom Fighters’ compensation. This ill advised decision to focus on compensating white farmers whilst turning a blind eye to issues like Freedom Fighters’ welfare and the peace and reconciliation of Gukurahundi, smacks of the highest level of hypocrisy; it is senseless. One would have expected the First Republic to have decisively resolved Freedom Fighters’ issues; they did not. We now look to the Second Republic for relief and if this generation of leaders does nothing to right this wrong, we cannot expect any other generation to do so.
During the former President Cde R. G. Mugabe’s tenure, we watched with dismay and disbelief as Freedom Fighters were teargassed for simply, after decades of neglect, airing their grievances. They were heartlessly labelled rogue elements. Now, under the new dispensation, we once again see this disregard for Freedom Fighters resurface as we see them being indiscriminately arrested for airing their grievances and demanding that their welfare be addressed.
Do not be fooled, just as before, I can bet my bottom dollar that reports reaching the President on this issue have labelled these hapless Freedom Fighters as “rogue elements”.
But, are these teargassed and arrested “rogue elements” not the same ones who laid the foundation for the march that forced the late Cde R. G. Mugabe out of office? Are they not the self, same ones who cleared the path for His Excellency, Cde E. D. Mnangagwa to ascend to presidency? The instruction for the Freedom Fighters to be teargassed was issued by one of your very own, a Freedom Fighter, the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). Yet again, they were arrested by the same office’s instruction.
The President must be very wary of some of the advice he gets from those entrusted with the task of advising him. He should take time to reflect upon the events leading to November 2017 and recall exactly who was behind the drive to have Cde R. G. Mugabe resign and why such a move was instigated. He must question himself if those recently arrested are not the ones who were at the forefront of the march. He must ask himself where the likes of Commission-General T. G. Matanga were during the 2017 March.
Simply put, Cdes, take stock of each other. Take stock of your fellow Commanders. Take stock of the President’s Cabinet and understand who is sincerely acting in your interests and who is not. Do not blame the opposition for your plight, this is a notion which is as far removed as it is absurd. Your neglect emanates from within, you are being hard on each other on your own.
It is only now the majority of the nation understands that the bad publicity attributed to you was committed and fabricated by the very people incorrectly advising the then President. You were only used, as pawns in a selfish game of politics, machinations of which you were and are not a part of. You are the liberators of our country, all of you, no matter where your political home is. Whether you were active in the trenches or those who catered for the fighters’ ancillary services. You must resolutely refuse and refrain from being divided by trivial distractions such as the formation of a War Veterans Association versus a War Veterans League. Where are the ZANLA and ZIPRA Commanders? You have allowed yourselves to be divided for selfish interest, which is disappointing. You are above petty politics. You are the custodians of our great Nation.
My humble advice to you, as Freedom Fighters, would be that you seek audience with His Excellency, President E. D. Mnangagwa to air your concerns and grievances. Your selected representative for such meeting must be those who genuinely have your interests at heart, not such people who are quiet when one of your own are unjustly treated and arrested and/or teargassed. You will not fail to find such stalwart representatives amongst yourselves. Those who are able to boldly articulate your issues in a frank, face-to-face meeting with the President. His Excellency is your Patron, one of you, and no one has the power to deny you access to him.
Another issue which needs to be raised during this meeting, is the truth about the President’s appointment of the Minister of State in the President’s Office for National Security. In what capacity the current Minister was chosen to represent this role should be explained. It should further be pointed out that it is difficult to respect a person in this role who is oblivious to matters regarding State Security. The question as to where the likes of Owen Mudha Ncube and July Moyo were during Operation Restore Legacy should too be raised amongst others. It is the likes of such people who make it difficult for a Head of State to conclude issues like Gukurahundi. Yes, the President has the prerogative to appoint those who may be loyal to him, but he needs such critical input from you, the Freedom Fighters. Zimbabwe is a spiritual and religious country. When you, as its liberators and custodians are quiet, evil prevails. When Chiefs are silenced with trinkets such as cars, the country’s ancestors shed tears, and those tears bring suffering to us as a country. A meeting like this, between yourselves and the President, whilst long overdue, has the propensity to be very enlightening, a positive step forward and a concerted effort towards positive resolution.
To add insult to injury, the recent article as carried by The Herald where Cde Christopher Mutsvangwa, who is purportedly your Chairperson, asserts that you have been infiltrated by G40 elements and the opposition makes for very comical reading at best. Whilst him making such sensational headlines is not surprising, it is disconcerting as such declarations are made under the supervision of his wife, Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, the Minister of Information and herself one of you. It is obvious that such statements shows that the Mutsvangwas are still labouring under the illusion that the Freedom Fighters’ welfare issue is still a ZANU-PF party matter when in fact it is a national, constitutional issue. Chris Mutsvangwa appears to believe he can deflect attention from his shenanigans by waving the political card against Freedom Fighters. Sadly for him however, this does not work and him and his statements should not be taken seriously. Here when we talk of Cde Chris Mutsvangwa, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about a War Veterans’ Chairperson who hobnobs with the likes of Eddie Cross in a pipeline deal, he does not deserve your respect.
Yes, the MDC is a Zimbabwean political party, but in his bid for self aggrandisement, Mutsvangwa has made a weird bed fellow of Eddie Cross in this abstract arrangement that leans more to self enrichment than any particular benefit to the country or its priorities. As a former Special Advisor to the President, one must ask themselves why Mutsvangwa has not been appointed or elevated to any other position of influence ever since. Well the simple explanation to that is that he was caught flat-footed and his real intentions were exposed. He is a divisive element not only in the War Veterans Association but in ZANU-PF too. He has been exposed as the one exerting unnecessary effort in an attempt to pit the President against his deputy Vice President Cde C. G. Chiwenga. Unbeknown to him however, Mutsvangwa was recorded by an Army General uttering detrimental assertions against Cde. Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. Nothing new to him though as this has proven to be his modus operandi as he has done the same against the likes of Mai Mujuru, Cdes Rugare Gumbo, Didymus Mutasa etc. Such trivialities are unbecoming of the stature of a Chairperson of the War Veterans Association.
Lest we forget, Mutsvangwa is the very one who usurped Chairmanship from Cde Jabulani Sibanda, the one who you duly elected. Mutsvangwa has failed to effective and efficiently represent Freedom Fighters’ issues, he has not once aired or lobbied for your welfare. He has however, found his voice in trying to implicate the opposition and G40 as having instigated your arrest. We all, yourselves especially, really deserve seriousness and not to bear the brunt of the rantings of one who has imbibed one too many Blue Label Whiskies as he is commonly known to do. His statement regarding the opposition and G40 is reckless!
I might be young of age compared to you Comrades, but my understanding of your issues comes from a mature and protracted insight. I was moved to tears when I received news of the arrest of those in your rank and file. As a legislator, I have Parliament as a platform to air my concerns to Government and the President. You on the other hand have your own ways and means of communicating with the President, a fellow Freedom Fighter who you historically have ties with, someone who you assisted in elevating to his current office in 2017.
Part of my pain stems from the fact that Commissioner-General Matanga does not represent his office in good faith. He has been implicated in many corrupt transactions and dealings but in a move which is hypocritical, wants to appear hard working to the President by arresting Freedom Fighters; diabolical. Whilst I do not blame the Home Affairs Minister for this action as he is a young entrant to this debacle and Matanga reports directly to the President, I am forced to put him on the spot.
So Comrades, whilst these thoughts have been simmering in me over the years, I was finally prompted to air my views to you by my disappointment at the recent arrest of Freedom Fighters who tried to air your grievances. I can assure you that I will never remain silent when Freedom Fighters are ill treated, neglected and treated with disdain and/or disrespected. If such support for you motivates my arrest, then so be it, but the bottom line is that a sustainable, final solution regarding your welfare and concerns must be reached.
So Comrades, when I talk about Freedom Fighters’ issues, I am not advocating for you as individuals. I am simply and duly exercising my constitutionally mandated role of oversight in defence of the country’s constitution on a matter of national interest.
Hon. Temba P. Mliswa (MP)