Thursday, 13 August 2009

A war veteran's memo.

By Mafira Kureva

I WAS touched by the article by Jane Madembo dated September 8, 2008 entitled: “Will the real war veterans please stand up? [1]” I am myself a war veteran and I briefly sketch my profile below.

I left for the war in 1975, at the age of 14 when I was in Form II at then St. Mary’s Hunyani Secondary School. On arrival in Mozambique I stayed at Zhunda briefly then went on to Nyadzonya in October 1975. At Nyadzonya I underwent my basic political education and training in military tactics using wooden guns. I left in April 1976 for Chimoio where I completed my military training then joined Wampoa Political Academy (whose history is hidden from Zimbabweans).

I then became a political instructor first at Chimoio, then Chibavava holding camps, which have been termed refugee camps by those who manipulate history for their ends. I briefly stayed at Beira (Manga Base) before going to operate in Mutambara Detachment covering the areas of Chayamiti, Muusha, Gwindingwi Estate, Chimanimani etc. I was wounded in battle and went back to Mozambique then to Chaminuka Sector, Mazowe Detachment. I operated in Tete Province till the ceasefire in 1979. We were then moved into the Assembly Points.

This brief sketch is to illustrate that I do not doubt my standing as a war veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and I am not shy about it.

My answer to Jane’s touching plea is as follows. It is sad that the history of our struggle for emancipation as a nation is yet to be written. I say this because whatever is claimed to have been written is not the truth of what we know as veterans of the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe, at least from my view point.

What I have so far read except for few marginalised texts, is about the history of the ruling elite, about the heroism of nationalists and their exploits. For example, I know of many comrades who lost their limbs at Nyadzonya on that fateful 9 August 1976 when Morrison Nyathi attacked the camp. But towards Heroes Days, ZBC presents what it terms the history of the armed struggle. And whom do they show about the Nyadzonya attack – Eddison Zvobgo and Simon Muzenda who say they were driven to the scene as a delegation.

They say what they saw long after the attack was over and the bodies were in a state of decomposition. Even Zvobgo, the eloquent Chicago lawyer, struggles to capture the images to convince the media about the devastation at Nyadzonya. The simple question is: why has our society, intellectuals, ruling clique, politicians and the state failed to give audience to people who really suffered these experiences? Why has our society tended to shun us even well before the negative picture painted about us now?

After Independence we were treated worse than the rebels of Sierra Leone, for example. I mean it literally, not figuratively. Do you know that no one who fought the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe was ever rehabilitated, mentally, physically, socially or economically? Yet the rebels of Sierra Leone were rehabilitated? To bring the issue home, do you know that the Rhodesian soldiers were given pensions, medical attention, retrenchment packages, alternative employment and retraining for them to fit back into civilian life? But this was not done to the war veterans. Why? The answer is simple. The ruling nationalists had an agenda of liberation that was different from that of the fighters, peasants and farm workers in the struggle. They quickly forged an alliance with the very same people the struggle was fighting against and this created a fissure in the movement. The peasants, war veterans and farm workers were relegated. If you see people, they parade as war veterans, next time ask yourself the interest of the person who is making that parade.

Relegation of war veterans is well-known as it was captured in the print media from 1980s-90s. Their suffering was debated in Parliament but nothing was done about it. This is what led to the street demonstrations against Mugabe, Zanu-PF and the state in the 1990s as Jane herself recalls. The point is that the revolution of the masses, the poor and the exploited was highjacked by the ruling elite who wanted to advance their interests with white capital. That is what led to the invasions of land beginning in 1997/98, led by the war veterans.

The actual issue at hand then was not just white capital but the alliance between the ruling classes with white capital. This is why the Zimbabwean issue is so complex and not a simple Zanu-PF/MDC issue. As Jane recalls Mugabe was at the centre of attack by the war veterans until they besieged State House after holding ministers hostage, stopping an American businessmen investment conference, demonstrating in the streets etc. But what was the reaction of our society to this?

The ZCTU, which was the leading civil society movement then failed even to utter a statement of support, contrary to their usual stunts for teachers, doctors industrial workers when they strike for more pay and improvement on their living conditions. War veterans were not even asking for improvement, but for basic survival. I know many who died of wounds they had sustained during the war because they were not treated after independence. Why did society keep quiet when war veterans rose against Zanu-PF, Mugabe and the state?

Now, when the government was forced to pay back what was due to the war veterans what happened? Workers and the whole society was mobilised against war veterans and there is all mockery and scorn about the $50 000 pay-outs yet the Rhodesian Security Forces who earned this without resorting to the streets did not get this treatment. Why? In any case, that money was looted again by people who really did not participate in the war as fighters. Many of those people you hear were in the armed struggle were actually in Maputo perhaps closer to the Indian Ocean than they were to the border with Zimbabwe. A lot of these were recruited by letter from overseas with the purpose of displacing real fighters from the leadership of the struggle and this persisted after independence. Have you ever asked yourself why war veterans never featured in Zanu- PF structures despite their mobilisation skills and demands by the peasants that they be part of the structures?

Nationalists do not have the same agenda with war veterans and the later have remained a threat. As such they are silenced and our society, because of ignorance, has danced to the tune of the nationalists and alienated their own heroes. The propaganda about marauding war veterans is clearly a creation of the ruling class because they know that if the people would unite with the war veterans then they cannot manage to terrorize anyone and commit all those atrocities that Jane mentions.

The people of Zimbabwe should know that war veterans are not as cheap as presented by the media and the ruling elite. But it is not only the ruling elite who have presented the war veterans as such, the international media, local media and opposition politicians as well. All these people also want to gain mileage from this depiction. It is easier to convince anyone that someone is committing atrocities against the other only if there is evidence that the victim is weaker. War veterans being militarily trained, with a record put by especially western trained scholars and ruling class that they were murderers during the war, it becomes easy to construct violence around war veterans.

But is this true?

Yes, war veterans started the land occupations as I said but I challenge anyone who would want to carry scientific research to come with evidence that confirms extreme violence against white farmers, farm workers etc committed by war veterans. I researched in the Mazowe, Mutepatepa and Nyabira areas for a PhD study. I am sincere about this. Another researcher, Angus Selby, a son of a white farmer, also did research in that area just to demonstrate that I am not just a war veteran trying to protect my lot. I have not read anywhere Selby has pointed out that anyone was killed in that area.

In my personal archives I have letters written by white farmers, High Court documents besides interviews I did with them and the land occupiers and these illustrate that the white farmers themselves are aware that war veterans were not violent. They did not want to totally dispossess the white farmers of land but to share. They wanted land to be distributed to the landless peasants; not the ruling elite. I was there myself. I took part in it and with a very clear cause for that matter. I am not even ashamed of that role. Through the process I even made some of my best friendship with white farmers and I could give specific names if this were not to infringe upon their rights.

When the ruling elite discovered that the war veterans had managed to occupy land and were moving to distribute it to the needy and simultaneously managing to have little effect on white commercial farming as they targeted unused land, excess land and multiple ownership farms the state knew that the war veterans had demonstrated their heroism and mission of not only redressing the land grievance but also managing to accommodate their former enemies, the white farmers. What did this mean to the ruling class?

They would lose support as the people would clearly see that war veterans, who had not been afforded an opportunity to rule the country, were better that the nationalists. The opposition also panicked and instead of uniting with the war veterans they were against them and campaigned against land seizures as if they did not know this national grievance and its potential danger. Once again the ruling elite sought to discredit the war veterans and it implemented the Fast Track Land Reform without making revealing to anyone that they were seeking to negate the initiatives of the war veterans.

The objective of that fast track programme was to thwart the war veteran-led land movement to cripple their ability to mobilise the masses to claim national wealth which they had been denied, worsening during ESAP. The ruling class did not want the masses to have faith in the true heroes of the nation. This would erode their power base and trust and support would shift from them to war veterans. This is why you see that the fast track programme targeted the war veterans and peasants who had occupied land and weeded them out. Even the Charles Utete Commission report points out this dispossession of war veterans.

A question that has not been asked is, “Why did the ruling elites carry out Murambatsvina? And our society seems to forget so easily as well. Remember the famous story that Comrade Chinx stood on the roof of his house when the bull dozer was about to raze it to the ground? Who is Chinx, the singer? Chinx Chingaira, the war veteran! War veterans had moved to engulf the urban areas in their mobilisation for resource distribution among the marginalised and they gave land to the urban poor for housing. They even attempted to form housing co-operatives in order to safeguard the interests of these poor people.

This was the most frightening thing to the ruling elite and the opposition alike.

The opposition and Zanu-PF had both thrived on holding on to the workers and peasants exclusively as their constituencies. The land movement broke this and merged the two struggles. War veterans had taken the struggle for economic emancipation of the marginalised Zimbabweans at a very high scale. The opposition was put in an awkward position of condemning land allocation to the urban poor through land occupations yet it purported to stand for their cause and to fight for their rights. So what was wrong with war veterans getting land and distributing it to the landless workers? Were they not fulfilling the very cause they went to war for? In the end the picture painted by the opposition about war veterans is exactly the one the ruling elite would want portrayed. They have the same agenda when it comes to real emancipation of Zimbabwe’s peasants and workers.

Another thing, do you know that Murambatsvina was followed by Chikorokoza Chapera? Why did the opposition keep silent about this? What was the motive of the ruling elite? All this was an attempt to hit at the rural occupiers so that the ruling class would assert its power. They wanted to dislocate the rural workers so that they had no economic means to propagate their ideas and exercise their will freely. And again the conditions of small scale mining were created by the land occupations, everyone knows that. Chikorokoza as we know it today was part of land occupations. But again only the peasants and farm workers know the truth because they are part of these struggles in which the rest join hands against war veterans.

The answer therefore to Jane’s touching question and plea is that our society has to distinguish between war veterans and Zanu-PF ruling elite. They have to judge correctly when war veterans taken action in the interests of the poor and support that. Otherwise society will continue to take actions which are against the interests of the majority and in the interest of those who are only fighting to get into power in order to do exactly the same as those who are there or the whites who colonized us.

What would this mean for the emancipation of the marginalised people?

For me as a war veteran, this is the moral question that hounds me. I see beyond MDC and Zanu-PF, beyond Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe. I consider my historic mission as being that of fighting for the poor. I know that many want to create a bad image of me precisely because they have a different agenda.

This is true about the Zanu-PF ruling elite, including Robert Mugabe, the opposition including Morgan Tsvangirai and international capital which would prefer either or both of these than the war veterans. They realise that emancipation of the marginalised poor of Zimbabwe means cutting strings of exploitation of the nation’s resources by these imperialists.

The new revolution towards Africa’s emancipation in the post-colonial era will have triumphed!


Anonymous said...

So what do you think about Mugabes white friends Van Hoogstratten, Rautenbach and Bredenkamp who are all white and own more land in Zimbabwe than any black person? Rautenbach was even allowed to remove black farmers to make way for "his" land. Do you think he could do that without Mugabe allowing him? Why don´t you write about Mugabes hypocrisy? That he and his party friends get the farms, not ordinary people.
/ Lars-Olov

Anonymous said...

I found you blog by accident. I dont want you to think it is ever worth revisiting. I just wish we had the pleasure of meeting back in 1979. As a white soldier who served under a black president and a 2/3 majority black parliament . . I would have cut short your ability to spew this racist pabulum for the naive and uneducated. Enjoy your 'free' Zimbabwe. If you need any food, electricity of cholera-free water just go to any one of the 12 farms your hero has stolen and tell him you're a war vet . . I am sure he will help you out.

Anonymous said...

Nhai vakuru. Ndava nemakore ndichitsvaka vanhu vane pedegree seyenyu. zvino, I always wonder kuti ndichazofawo ndawanana kana kutaurawo nevanhu vakadai semi here vanemwoyo wekuyeuka idi neruzhinji rwevanhu. pliz ndipeiwo mukana wekutaura nemi kana kungondipaow email address yenyu. handisi mucio kwete. Kunyora uku kwataurawo zvinondirwadza chose asi zvandinovimba kuti rimwe gore zvichabuda.

Pliz ndipeiwo email kana runhare zvarow ndimbokurukura ndinzwewo zvakawanda.

Anonymous said...

Nhai vakuru. Ndava nemakore ndichitsvaka vanhu vane pedegree seyenyu. zvino, I always wonder kuti ndichazofawo ndawanana kana kutaurawo nevanhu vakadai semi here vanemwoyo wekuyeuka idi neruzhinji rwevanhu. pliz ndipeiwo mukana wekutaura nemi kana kungondipaow email address yenyu. handisi mucio kwete. Kunyora uku kwataurawo zvinondirwadza chose asi zvandinovimba kuti rimwe gore zvichabuda.

Pliz ndipeiwo email kana runhare zvarow ndimbokurukura ndinzwewo zvakawanda.