THE fight by former Zipra combatants to reclaim their properties which were seized by government at the height of the Gukurahundi era in the early 1980s has taken a new twist with members of the former Zipra High Command pushing for a meeting with President Robert Mugabe to resolve the matter.
Buster Magwizi, a member of former Zipra High Command which was PF-Zapu’s highest-decision-making body during the armed struggle, told NewsDay yesterday that they had made arrangements to meet Mugabe as soon as he comes back from his annual leave.
This comes as top Zanu PF members insist that the Zapu property issue died a natural death upon the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord between PF Zapu and Zanu PF.
“The fact that he (Mugabe) has come out in the open and invited former Zapu members to rejoin Zanu PF shows that he understands our concerns and the intricacies of the matter. We believe this is the best opportunity to engage him on the property issue so that it is returned to the rightful owners,” said Magwizi, who until last year, was chairperson of the Zipra War Veterans Trust.
“Those properties, which included farms, buildings and other movable goods, belong to former Zipra cadres. We contributed financially to acquire them as part of Zapu’s indigenisation programme as early as 1980.
“We want them back because they were acquired as a foundation for mitigating against poverty among ex-Zipra fighters and there was no ulterior motive behind the project. So as former Zipra High Command, we will soon meet the President over the issue because we believe we have the relevant repository of data concerning the properties.”
But former Zipra High Command member and Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa yesterday distanced himself from the planned meeting and accused Magwizi and his ex-PF-Zapu colleagues of “jumping the gun”, saying any negotiations that left out board members of Nitram (Pvt) Ltd was illegal.
Before their confiscation, all Zapu properties were under the management of Nitram (Pvt) Ltd being chaired by Dabengwa.
“I believe any negotiations to do with the seized Zapu properties should be spearheaded by the Nitram Investments board where I am chairperson,” Dabengwa said.
Contacted for comment, both Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo professed ignorance over the matter. “I don’t know of any arrangements by these people to meet the President and in any case, I don’t think it’s practical to have the properties returned to former Zapu/Zipra members as those entities ceased to exist following the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord,” Gumbo said.
The properties were confiscated and forfeited to the State after government accused ex-Zapu members of using them as arms caches. They had been bought from contributions by ex-Zipra cadrés largely from their demobilisation payments.