War veterans’ ‘million-man’ march set for month-end

War veterans' 'million-man' march set for month-end

HARARE - Veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war say the long-delayed Harare million men march in support of President Robert Mugabe's candidature for next year's presidential polls will now take place at the end of this month in Highfield suburb.

Highfield is seen as the cradle of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, being the suburb where founding nationalists met in the 1960s to plot the liberation of the then Rhodesia.

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) announced at the weekend that the 30 November march would start and end at Zimbabwe Grounds in the suburb where Mugabe would address the marchers.

The march would take the former freedom fighters through the Old Highfield where Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo lived before independence and Mushandirapamwe Hotel where the leaders of the ruling ZANU PF party held political meetings in the 1960s.

ZNLWVA chairman Jabulani Sibanda said the freedom fighters would use the march to show support for Mugabe’s stance against Britain and other Western countries.

We are also supporting his stand against oppression applied by bigger nations to smaller nations, said Sibanda who was quietly brought back into ZANU PF after being suspended from the ruling party.

The veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of independence wield immense influence in ZANU PF after waging violence and terror against the opposition at every major election since 2000 to ensure victory for the ruling party.

Mugabe is patron of the ZNLWVA and has often used war veterans to intimidate opponents to his rule and they were at the vanguard of farm occupations during his controversial land reform programme which began seven years ago.

The veterans have in recent weeks held marches across the country to show support for Mugabe who they say is the only one fit to rule Zimbabwe, despite a worsening economic crisis and food shortages.  

Zimbabwe holds presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

Mugabe, who earlier this year said there was no vacancy for his position, has said he will stand for re-election next year to take his rule to more than three decades.

ZNLWVA vice chairman Joseph Chinotimba said the association was mobilising other people for the march, which has been on the cards since August.

We don’t have one million war veterans but every Zimbabwean is invited. We need one million men and women even you and your wife, Chinotimba told ZimOnline.

He said they chose Highfield because it was the suburb where Zimbabwean nationalism started in the 1960s.

The patron of the war veterans, who is also the president and who will automatically win next year’s presidential elections, will address the people, Chinotimba said.

Other marches have been held in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces to show support for President Mugabe who the liberation war fighters say is the only one fit to rule Zimbabwe.

The marches are timed to silence dissenting voices within ZANU PF who want Mugabe to retire and make way for a new leader.

Mugabe is under pressure to step down from rival factions within ZANU PF linked to former army commander Solomon Mujuru and Rural Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

There has been growing speculation that a faction within ZANU PF led by former army commander Solomon Mujuru could spring a surprise at the party’s December congress by nominating a challenger to Mugabe.

The Mujuru faction is said to be mobilising behind the scenes to push former finance minister Simba Makoni or Vice-President Joice Mujuru to take a strike at Mugabe’s job.

Political analysts say the message coming out of the solidarity marches illustrate growing opposition to Mugabe’s leadership within ZANU PF as shown by the incorporation of war veterans to silence dissenting lieutenants in the party.

Already leaders and members of the women’s assembly and the youth wing are currently holding meetings and marches in the country’s provinces to back President Mugabe’s candidature in next year’s elections. – ZimOnline

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