From Mgagao to Raylton: the implications for Zimbabwe

    By Lloyd Msipa

    ON the 21st of July 2016 the Zimbabwe War veterans met at Raylton sports club were they decided to revisit The Mgagao declaration of 1975. To highlight the significance of this declaration, we need to contextualise this by looking at the history. Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980 following a protracted war of liberation.

    ZAPU (Zimbabwe African Peoples Union) and ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) were the main political parties that executed the war through their military wings, ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army) representing ZAPU and ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) representing ZANU. ZAPU was led by Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo and ZANU by Robert Gabriel Mugabe at the later period of the struggle. ZANU executed the war from Mozambique whilst ZAPU was based in Zambia.

    I will leave the intricacies of how that came about for another time. Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo was the founding chairman of ZANU formed in 1963. He was killed in a car bomb explosion on the 18th of March 1975. To this day, his death remains a mystery. Theories abound.  One school blames internal contradictions within ZANU, a fact not lost to the late University of Zimbabwe Political science Lecturer Masipula Sithole in his book – The Struggles within the struggle- In it he blames ZANU internal squabbles and power struggles as what triggered his assassination. Another school of thought blames former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith’s SAS crack unit.  Chitepo was replaced by Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole-a Ndau ethnic minority leader from Chipinge. His reign as leader was ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

    The Mgagao Declaration

    The declaration to withdraw support from Mugabe made by Zimbabwe’ s war veterans at Raylton Sports club must be looked at in the context of the Mgagao declaration of 1975. The Mgagao declaration refers to a document written at the height of the war of liberation in Tanzania in 1975.  It essentially accused Sithole of poor leadership, of having forgone the values of the war of liberation: that he was a counter revolutionary who by his actions had caused disunity in the party. He was accused of derailing and arresting the ideals of the liberation struggles. His actions were said to be tantamount to stamping out the flame of the peoples revolution. He was accused of “selling out the struggle” when he sought unity with Ian Smith and Vorster of South Africa. Essentially, he was considered an ineffectual and hopeless leader. The Mgagao declaration laid the foundation for the removal of Sithole as ZANU leader and the elevation of Mugabe.

    The Raylton Declaration

    With 21st of July 2016 war veterans declaration at Raylton Sports club in Harare, history repeated itself. Zimbabwe’s war veterans declared that Mugabe has failed to uphold the values, the ethos of the war of liberation. Just like his predecessor Sithole, Mugabe got the no confidence vote. Just like Mgagao the declaration of the 21st July 2016 (Which I have aptly renamed The Raylton Sports Club Declaration) resolved to recall Robert Mugabe. In their own words Mugabe stood accused of “deliberate neglect and abandonment by the party president of the masses, who are the foundation upon which the liberation war was fought and won…ideologically bankrupt million man marches …organised in honour of bankrupt leadership. The same leadership that has failed to address the bread and butter issues which stick out like a sore thumb”.

    Like his predecessor Sithole, Mugabe stands accused of being the man in a suit who “arrived in Mozambique to join those of us who were already armed and prosecuting the war as political soldiers”. Just like Sithole, it was them that put pressure on Ian Smith to have him released from prison. The Raylton Sports club declaration, for all intents and purposes, lays the foundation for leadership change in ZANU PF. The fact that the war veterans have decided to withdraw their support leaves Mugabe a completely vulnerable man.
    Expect the Spin
    As a rule ZANU PF will seek to downplay the significance of what has just happened. As I write efforts are abound by little men in suits spinning.  Some ran away from the frontline of the war of liberation and others never took part altogether. ZANU PF will downplay the significance of the declaration. They will claim that the war veterans who took part were insignificant in numbers to be of consequence.  They will pull out some hungry sorry sods and parade them as ‘real’ loyal war veterans. The likes of Joseph Chinotimba may be brought back to relevance once again.  But the truth is, war veterans were a key pillar in the survival of Mugabe. They spearheaded the land reform exercise on his behalf. They have religiously handed Mugabe, by hook or crook, electoral victory every five years since 1980.

    The New ZANU PF Youth

    Recent protests from pro-democracy groups, in particular Pastor Evan Mawarire’s ThisFlag campaign unsettled Mugabe who unleashed unemployed youths into the streets and called it anti-protests march- if that makes sense. Zimbabwe’s unemployed youths make up upward of fifty per cent of Zimbabwe’s population. They are hungry and hence vulnerable. Plied with alcohol and promises of free urban land they are used to try and sustain Mugabe’s aura of invincibility. But the people understand what is taking place. ‘These are our children,’ they say. None is afraid of them. In fact, sympathy and understanding is extended to them more, as they are unwitting victims of a ninety two year old man at the sunset of his life using children who are at the dawn of theirs to hold on to power.  Mugabe will try and use the same youths to fill the vacuum left by the war veterans.  But this will not work as the centre is not holding. Mugabe does not have the money to finance all this, besides the political culture itself in Zimbabwe has turned a corner. Zimbabweans are no longer as gullible as they used to be, let’s say a year ago.

    The Battle lines are drawn

    The residual praise singers will continue to be there for Mugabe. Some have no choice except to fight to the bitter end. Their lives are so entwined with Mugabe’s such that it will be impossible to prosper after he is gone. Those with the fore-sight are abandoning the sinking vessel.  The battle lines are drawn. The Raylton Declaration must be seen for what it is. Yes, it is an attempt by genuine liberation war veterans to salvage the former liberation party before Mugabe dies with it, but most importantly to the people of Zimbabwe it resets the relationship of the war veterans with the masses. The very reason they went to war in the first place. It is now incumbent upon the war veterans to walk the talk and rid Zimbabwe of Mugabe and those like him from the political playing field.

    Lloyd Msipa is a Zimbabwean Lawyer based in the United Kingdom. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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