ABOUT 2 000 people have been camping at a farm on the outskirts of Harare for the past two months demanding compensation from government for participating in the liberation struggle.
Report by Dumisani Sibanda.
The group — consisting of both men and women most of them aged above 50 who have been camping at a farm near the Koala Abattoir adjacent to the Harare-Chitungwiza Highway — are from all the provinces in the country and are demanding to be addressed by President Robert Mugabe. They do not claim to have fought in the war of liberation, but say they crossed the border and participated in the struggle in various ways, including nursing freedom fighters and doing other chores outside the country.
Efforts to get a comment from Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba yesterday were fruitless.
On Monday, when a NewsDay crew visited the farm, some members of the group wearing Zanu PF regalia were reading the party’s manifesto under trees.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, Jabulani Sibanda, said he was aware of the presence of the group at the farm.
“They are people who were in the struggle, but did not receive military training that qualifies them in terms of the War Veterans Act to be regarded as war veterans,” he said.
“Some of them were teachers and nurses, for instance, but they were part of the war. They have genuine grievances and I spoke to some of their leaders and some of these comrades have started going back to help the party campaign and win the elections. Their issues will be attended to after the elections when the party (Zanu PF) has won the elections.”
In 1997, former freedom fighters staged demonstrations forcing government to capitulate and give them Z$50 000 each as gratuity for taking part in the 15-year war.
Sources close to the group said although they did not receive any military training, they wanted government to pay them pensions and gratuities in the same manner their counterparts who “received military training” during the liberation struggle and considered “war veterans” under the War Veterans Act were compensated.
“These people spend the whole day milling around and occasionally go to town saying they are going to the Zanu PF headquarters,” said a source. “They say they are waiting to be addressed by Mugabe on the processing of their gratuities and pensions.”
Local farmers have raised concerns of a looming health disaster as the site does not have adequate sanitary facilities.
The people are also reportedly demanding food from local farmers as well as transport to take them to Zanu PF headquarters.