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Is Mugabe Turning His Back On The War Veterans?


President Robert Mugabe may be entering the most perilous stage in the history of his leadership of the country of Zimbabwe. From within and without, pressure is mounting on Mugabe to either step down or make policy concessions that he has long opposed. Much of the opposition to Mugabe is misguided and comes from forces that do not have the best interests of the Zimbabwe people at heart but Mugabe may be compounding his own problems by turning his back on a key constituency that helped return his party to power in June.

Many observers are familiar with the opposition that Mugabe has received from the international community and the country's opposition political party -- the Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) -- for his handling of white farmers who own a disproportionate amount of the country's most productive land. And still others are familiar with Mugabe's support of the Black war veterans who seized land from these farmers that they argued belonged to the larger Black Zimbabwe population.

But few observers, especially Mugabe supporters, have commented on the about face that President Mugabe appears to have committed against these same war veterans, soon after the June election where Mugabe's ZANU-PF barely won a majority of seats in Zimbabwe's parliament.

This month, the very same war veterans that vocally backed Mugabe and ZANU-PF during a heated campaign season, have been forcibly removed by Zimbabwe authorities, at least on two occasions, from the land they had previously been allowed to stay on.

Zimbabwe police carried out the removals and there is disagreement over who in authority is responsible for the police action and which political party the police officers are loyal to - ZANU-PF or MDC - but in either case, many Mugabe supporters are furious that the president allowed the second police action against the war veterans earlier this week. Mugabe ordered the first series of removals ended when he returned to the country after a trip to the US.

Many members of ZANU-PF and the war veterans themselves, are upset with Mugabe over the police action and don't understand how or why a new police action could occur if Mugabe had in fact ordered such action stopped.

Some believe that Mugabe simply used the war veterans and the land issue to get elected and now that he is in office, is attempting to distance himself from them in order to curry favor with the West and to appease the MDC inside of Zimbabwe. In addition, some see the police removals as an effort to pacify white farmers who have filed legal action against the Zimbabwe president in response to his land policies.

In addition, to the growing dissatisfaction with Mugabe among war veterans and the leadership of the ZANU-PF, the country is mired in an economic crisis featuring a rapidly rising inflation rate and Mugabe is under intense pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to make reforms to the Zimbabwe economy.

According to reports in the Zimbabwe press, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party leadership is now in agreement that Mugabe should not stand for reelection in 2002 and are looking to groom a successor to Mugabe.

ZANU-PF leadership is considering such action in light of the fact that their political party has become increasingly unpopular among the Black Zimbabwe electorate. In the June elections ZANU-PF captured 62 parliament seats to the MDC's 57 - a vote too close for the party establishment's comfort.

It was tough enough for Mugabe to fend off the United States, England, IMF, MDC and white farmers, one can only wonder how long he can survive if he adds the ZANU-PF party leadership and a bunch of angry war veterans to a growing list of enemies.


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, September 21, 2000

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