President Mugabe presided over the official celebrations of national Heroes Day but uncharacteristically stirred clear of the controversy around the country’s former freedom fighters and recent comments by the country’s military hierarchy.
Instead the veteran Zanu PF leader again made disparaging remarks aimed at popular cleric and self-exiled #ThisFlag front-man Evan Mawarire.
“We praise our security forces for the calm that has been, the peace that has been and we praise them for their role in international obligations,” Mugabe said in a terse address that left out the bedlam engulfing Zanu PF and has since sucked in the country’s military.
At the weekend defence forces chief General Constantine Chiwenga warned elements in a faction of the ruling party known as G40 not to “cross the Rubicon”. Chiwenga’s comments seemed directed at Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene leading lights in the faction that is hostile to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to take over from ailing 92 year-old Mugabe.
The internal fight for control of Zanu PF seems to have reached boiling point after war veterans issued a damning communique characterising Mugabe as a manipulative and autocratic leader who have failed to run the country. The former freedom fighters also declared they would for the first time not attend Heroes Day celebrations since independence 36 years ago and yesterday former Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa were conspicuous by their absence.
Mugabe seemed to suggest that the contentious Statutory Instrument 164 that bans certain foodstuffs was a direct response to South Africa’s protectionist tendencies in the medical field.
“If the South Africans feel aggrieved we should talk. The South Africans also cried foul over the medicines we were exporting to that country. They did not want us to transport those medicines by road, rather they wanted us to use air which would make them uneconomic on landing. So we must talk with our colleagues in South Africa,” said Mugabe.
He said SI/164 is meant to protect Zimbabwean industry.
“Every Nation does it and we cannot allow everything including cheap clothing from China. That is dumping and we will not allow it. There are also chickens from Brazil and South Africa was being used as a conduit, we say no. We can supply our local market including eggs and pork,” the Zanu PF leader said.
Mugabe admitted the move to ban certain goods did not sit well with some sections of Zimbabwe leading to violent protests but then blamed Mawarire.
“But some like Mawarire, we do not know where he came from, latching on to it and inspiring protest. He urged people to go into the streets. They damaged property and threw stones at police. That is no good and will not be allowed,” he said.
Mawarire was arrested in the aftermath of the protests that rocked the country and in particular the border town of Beitbridge where a warehouse was torched. He was charged with subversion but the charges failed to stick. Mawarire is now temporarily exiled in South Africa after Mugabe urged him top “find another country”.
Mugabe denied opposition claims of discrimination in the distribution of food aid.
“It is not true that people are discriminated against in the distribution of food. It is not our way of doing things as a government. Sometimes it’s true that the food is not enough but we never say give this parcel to Zanu PF people only or do not give to those who support this or that party,” said Mugabe.
The veteran Zimbabwean strongman scoffed at what he called sinister moved by opposition forces to coalesce and force his government out of power.