Prospects for the Future Role of Ex-combatants in the Zimbabwean Nationalist Politics or is it the end of the era?
In October 1975 a group of radical and young military guerrillas of Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) stationed at the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army’s (ZANLA) training camp at Mgagao, in Tanzania convened and issued a communique. The communique that is now commonly referred to as the ‘Mgagao Declaration’ not only elevated the rise of Robert Mugabe to the echelons of power but also helped in the construction of a symbiotic relationship between the former and ex-combatants of the struggle for Zimbabwe. In postindependence Zimbabwe, this relationship took on various forms-the unwillingness of the government to provide the necessary human security mechanisms to ex-combatants and the instrumental use of these former military guerillas in the promulgation of exclusive and patriotic political trajectories. It was not until the 1990s and 2000s that these ex-combatants became actively involved in politics in defending the Mugabe led regime. Their involvement in politics has evolved around what scholars term ‘politics of belonging’ whose tenets speak to the need to seek political, economic and ideological recognition from the government and society. In the process, these ex-combatants secured ZANU-PF lifeline only to end in a post2013 era where the future of these vanguards of the struggle hangs in the balance as the ruling ZANU-PF focuses on the youth to carry the Third Chimurenga forward.
Keywords: ZANU-PF, Ex-combatants, Mgagao Declaration, Third Chimurenga, Political capital, politics of belonging, nationalist politics.