War veterans in Zimbabwe say they plotted to oust Robert Mugabe as leader just weeks ahead of a military operation that pushed the 93-year-old out of office.
Officials from veteran associations of both independence war armies, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, told the private NewsDay they had planned to march on State House in November to force Mugabe to step down.
But the army intervened before the war veterans could on November 15, forcing Mugabe to resign so that recently-sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa could take his place.
“Mnangagwa was never aware of what we were doing. He remained loyal to Mugabe to the extent that we had problems with his blind loyalty that never got a return favour from Mugabe,” Christopher Mutsvangwa, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) told NewsDay.
But there are no hard feelings: Mutsvangwa is now a special adviser to the new president.
Mutsvangwa said Mnangagwa’s eyes were “opened” when Grace Mugabe – who was championing a rival faction of Zanu-PF – was booed at a rally in the second city of Bulawayo on November 4.
A watershed moment
Said the war vets’ chief: “The booing in Bulawayo was a watershed moment we organised and celebrated. It exposed Mugabe for who he was and opened Mnangagwa’s eyes to what was going on.”
Another war veteran official, Victor Matemadanda told the paper that before the takeover, the veterans had even been preparing to take legal action to wrest the name ‘Zanu-PF’ from Mugabe who was determined to stand as the ruling party’s only candidate in elections in 2018.
“We were preparing even for a legal battle to get the name of the party and go into elections with a different candidate than him,” he said. “In the end, the plan was to make sure the party is in the right hands.”