War Veterans: Continuities Between the Past and the Present


  • Norma Kriger


This article makes the case for strong parallels in the collaborative relationship between veterans and the party in the first seven years of independence and in the extended election campaign period from February 2000 to the presidential election in March 2002. Just as the ruling party used ZANLA veterans to build power in the army, the bureaucracy, and among urban workers in the first seven years of independence, so it used veterans alongside others, and especially youth, to try to preserve its power among these constituencies. The fast-track land resettlement program, like the earlier cooperative movement, provided valuable symbolic support for the party’s revolutionary credentials but demonstrated the party’s low commitment to achieving large-scale economic transformation. As in the first seven years, so in the post-2000 campaign period, veterans often had their own agendas, distinct from the party’s, as they sought power and privilege, both of which were threatened by a change in regime.  Whereas from 1980 to 1987, ZANLA veterans and the ruling party targeted the opposition party, ZAPU, and its former ZIPRA guerrillas, in the post-2000 campaign period the party and veterans colluded against the new political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Across both time periods, veterans and the party relied on liberation war appeals, violence, and intimidation to attain their distinct and overlapping objectives. Another parallel between the two time periods is in the political discourse about “authentic” and “fake” veterans.