Scrap war veterans Act — villagers

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GWANDA —Villagers in the Sitezi area of Gwanda have called for the scrapping of the war veterans’ Act and the setting up of a new body to look into the pathetic state of the former liberation fighters.
This emerged during contributions by villagers this week, during consultations on what they want included in the new supreme law whose take-off was a disaster owing to logistical problems. Sitezi is situated about 50kms north of Gwanda in Matabeleland South province.
Giving views to Copac facilitators and rapporteurs, the villagers said to include the former freedom fighters in the constitution gave them preferential treatment ahead of other groups in society. They said this could lead to abuse of the privilege accorded to them as ex-freedom fighters.
“We don’t want the special interests of war veterans included in the constitution,” said one villager. This makes them feel they are more important and special than other citizens of this country.
“We all made contributions to the liberation war. My feeling is that the $50 000 gratuities they got from government was enough recognition of the role they played in the liberation of this country.”
In 1997, the government awarded $50 000 gratuities to war veterans as compensation for liberating Zimbabwe, in a move that signaled the beginning of the collapse of the economy.
Copac requires that villagers conceal their identity as some areas were still politically polarised and most people feared victimisation for expressing views opposed to those of Zanu PF.
Another villager said there was need for the constitution to ensure that the government set aside a committee that would grade the former freedom fighters according to their contributions to the country’s liberation.
“Some of the so-called war veterans deserted from the war. Now they want to be recognised as war vets. The committee that will be set up should carefully vet people and root out corrupt and fake war veterans,” the villager said.
A 65-year-old woman, who claimed to be a widow from the armed struggle, said the government needed to look after the welfare of liberation war widows.
“We want the government, through the constitution, to be responsible for the welfare of widows whose husbands died during the war.
“Most of us are struggling to pay for our children’s education because there is no money coming from government. We want government to take care of us,” she said. Some of the villagers said war veterans needed to be protected from abuse by the state. They said they wanted the constitution to clearly define what role the liberation fighters would play in post-war situations.
“War veterans have been abused for a long time,” a man in his late 40s said.
“They have been made to turn against the very people who supported them during the war.
“What we now want is a safeguard that would ensure that the state does not use war veterans to abuse innocent civilians. There is no war in this country and our fathers and brothers who fought in the war of liberation should be left alone to rest and forget about the vagaries of war.”
On the issue of presidential and the prime ministerial provisions in the constitution, the villagers preferred a president and one vice president. They called for the scrapping of the prime minister’s post.
They said a president and a vice president were the two office bearers who could effectively run a government.
“While we appreciate the current set-up, we feel the prime minister is irrelevant to the politics of this country. Therefore, we can do with a president and a vice president at the moment,” said another villager.
The villagers also said the new constitution must guarantee media freedom and also create fertile ground for the establishment of more mass media service providers but insisted provisions must be made to ensure that mass media services reported the truth.
“Journalists lie a lot nowadays. Even if they do not, their employers change things and they give us lies. All we want is the promotion of new media houses as well as ensuring that journalists tell us the truth and not doctored information,” another villager said.