WAR veterans, who in 1997 demanded and got a $50 000 gratuity each, triggering a decade-long recession, are now demanding more payment for taking part in the war of liberation.
Report by Veneranda Langa
This time they want between 21% to 30% of seats in Parliament, among several fresh demands.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs, chaired by Glen View South MP Paul Madzore, yesterday, various war veterans’ associations demanded further gratuities of $18 000 each and a government ministry to cater specifically for their needs.
They also demanded that the new constitution should accommodate their demands.
Said Basten Beta, chairman of the Zimbabwe War Veterans’ Trust: “We want 30% representation in national economic, political and social spheres. In 1980 if there was 21% representation of whites in Parliament, why not transfer that 21% to 30% representation to war veterans now?
“There should also be a Ministry of War Veterans and a necessary department to support the cause of war veterans and those should be led by war veterans.”
The war vets’ leader said it was time title deeds for land were given to war veterans because the 99-year leases could easily be revoked by a minister while “colonial farmers had leases”.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association secretary-general Shadreck Makombe said regional countries like Namibia and Mozambique had copied the Zimbabwean model of compensating war veterans, but were now better off in terms of taking care of their ex-fighters.
An emotional Makombe said their reason for going to war was to reclaim the country’s political and economic power but to date, the latter was yet to cascade down to them.
“Every war veteran who went to war was traumatised, but when it comes to money one finds there is nothing. War veterans are given pauper’s burials. We have been denied gratuity and even rehabilitation, but these benefits are our rights,” Makombe said.
He said the War Veterans Act should be amended soon so that heroes like the late Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara’s families could also benefit.
Director at the War Veterans Affairs Department in the Ministry of Defence, Retired Major General Richard Ruwodo, said they had pursued diamond mining claims in Marange.
“Our papers went through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, but we had challenges with the Ministry of Mines. We were told we would have to see President Robert Mugabe and we have asked to meet him, but we have not yet secured an appointment. The problem is more politically inclined than administrative,” Ruwodo said.
Zipra combatants’ representative Lazarus Ncube demanded that the properties of members of his association which were confiscated by government during the 1980s Gukurahundi era be returned and compensation given.