The Sunday News
George Maponga in Masvingo
FOREIGN Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Christopher Mutsvangwa is the new leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association after he was nominated to lead the body unopposed at the ongoing two-day elective congress of ex-freedom fighters being held at Great Zimbabwe Hotel.The congress ends today and is being attended by over 400 delegates from all the country’s 10 provinces.
Cde Mutsvangwa takes over from Cde Jabulani Sibanda who did not attend the congress following his sacking from Zanu-PF last Thursday.
The Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister’s supporters led by his wife Cde Monica Mutsvangwa mobbed him after director responsible for War Veterans in the Ministry of Defence Retired Major-General Richard Ruwodo, who was leading the nomination of candidates, announced that Cde Mutsvangwa had been nominated unchallenged.
Delegates went into delirium singing liberation war songs while celebrating Cde Mutsvangwa’s nomination to be national war veterans’ chair.
Cde Mutsvangwa, who immediately joined senior service chiefs who were observing proceedings from the top table, will be declared duly elected war veterans national chairman by the presiding officer at the elective congress, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Inspector General Major-General Engelbert Rugeje today when elections for other posts with more than one nomination will be held.
The elections will be conducted by officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to make sure that the exercise is transparent and free and fair.
In the battle for the vice-chairperson’s post, Cde Lewis Maphosa will slug it out with Cde Jackson Ndlovu while Retired Colonel Samuel Makureya will fight it out with a Cde Tokwe and Cde Mthombeni for the secretary-general’s post. Cde Robert Ncube was elected treasurer unopposed but his nomination was still subject to confirmation as officials supervising the polls wanted to verify the exact province that he comes from between Bulawayo and Matabeleland South.
One of the ground rules at the congress was that all contested posts should be equitably distributed between the 10 provinces in Zimbabwe.
Nominations for other posts were still going on last night.
Ten posts were up for grabs at the congress namely: chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary-general, treasurer, political commissar, secretary for security, secretary for information and publicity, secretary for legal affairs, transport and welfare, and Women’s Affairs.
In his opening remarks Maj-Gen Rugeje, who spoke on behalf of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commader General Constantine Chiwenga, said members of the war veterans elders’ executive, who include Cdes Patrick Nyaruwata, Joseph Chinotimba and Victor Matemadanda were not eligible to contest.
Maj-Gen Rugeje also said the war veterans’ association constitution had been temporarily suspended until the election of new office bearers to lead the ex-freedom fighters’ body. He said the new office bearers were supposed to look at the constitution and institute the necessary amendments to make it a good document.
He also said for 11 years the previous executive led by the Cde Sibanda was operating unconstitutionally.
“The last congress for war veterans was held in 2003 in Mutare and I do not know exactly how many years the executive that was elected at that congress was supposed to stay in office. But let us say they were supposed to stay in office for a maximum of five years, this means another congress was supposed to be held in 2008 latest but it was never held,’’ he said.
Maj-Gen Rugeje said this year’s congress, held at the behest of war veterans’ national patron President Mugabe, was wholly funded by the Ministry of Defence as part of efforts to make sure that war veterans have forthright leaders who were not like Cde Sibanda.
He said war veterans should not sit and fold their hands when the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Zanu-PF First Secretary President Mugabe is being attacked and denigrated like what Cde Sibanda did.
Maj-Gen Rugeje said there was only one centre of power in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe, and told war veterans that the office of President in Zimbabwe was sacrosanct hence the need to defend it.
“As war veterans we are the bulwark that is supposed to protect the office of the President. If we fail to protect the integrity of the office of the President, that will be tantamount to treason. We should never again allow leaders like Cde Sibanda to be at the helm of the war veterans association. A war veterans’ leader should be a straightforward person without a chequered history,’’ he added.
Maj-Gen Rugeje said it was high time ex-freedom fighters elected leaders responsive to their aspirations especially issues to do with welfare instead of leaders such as Cde Sibanda who were bent on personal aggrandisement.
In his address to the delegates Cde Nyaruwata said the ongoing elective congress was long overdue as war veterans had endured over 10 years of hell under the leadership of Cde Sibanda before he was sacked from Zanu-PF.
In his welcome remarks at the start of the congress, Chief Mugabe said this year’s war veterans congress was historic as it was held at Great Zimbabwe monuments the spiritual home of the country.
Chief Mugabe said the new leadership elected at Great Zimbabwe will be different from any other previous ones as Great Zimbabwe had a lot of significance in the country’s history.
Masvingo war veterans’ provincial chairman Cde Francis Nando said there were some senior Zanu-PF leaders in Masvingo who were using money to cause confusion and destroy the revolutionary party from within in Masvingo.
He said the senior leaders sat on a number of boards of companies with links to Western nations that were sponsoring the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.