DISGRUNTLED former liberation war collaborators have demanded an audience with President Robert Mugabe to register their displeasure over government’s failure to compensate them for the role they played during the liberation struggle.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators’ Association (Ziliwaco) national chairman Pupurai Togarepi told NewsDay that he was under pressure from his membership to force through a meeting with Mugabe over the issue.
“War collaborators are angry even with me. They somehow think I have somehow benefited from the positions I have in the ruling party to the extent that I have now mellowed on our demands to be recognised just as happened with war veterans,” he said.
“Our members bore the brunt of the war because these were civilians with no defence of any sort of security, but who dealt with both the enemy and the liberation fighters. In most instances, they turned into the biggest victims because they could not be trusted by both sides.”
Togarepi said Ziliwaco members ordered him to organise a meeting with Mugabe or begin preparations to sue the government for breach of constitutional provisions.
“War veterans got compensation because they used all manner of tactics including demonstrations and other things. We have remained humble, but this is how we are repaid for being obedient. There is need to respect the men and women who sacrificed their lives for this
country. Some women have children whose fathers they do not know.
“Others are ridiculed by both their families and husbands accused of being loose just because they were abused by liberation war fighters. These are scars our members are living with every day. Our members are not asking for cash, but some sort of recognition such as medals or non-monetary benefits like not paying medical fees. As long as it is coming from the government, we will appreciate that gesture,” Togarepi said.
“Around the time the President met war veterans in early April he gave a commitment that he would also meet war collaborators, but nothing has been communicated thus far.
“The other thing is that the Minister responsible for the Welfare of War Veterans, War Collaborators and Restrictees, Tshinga Dube, promised, when he was deputy minister, that by March this year our members would all have been vetted, but nothing has happened. It seems government has decided to abrogate its duty not only to the war collaborators, but also to the Constitution which recognises us.”
But Dube yesterday dismissed the war collaborators’ claims.
“We never promised that we would vet anyone, but said their issues would be looked at once we have finished the re-alignment of laws. We are still working on the realignment,” he said, adding Mugabe never promised to meet them.
Most Zimbabweans helped in one way or another in the war effort in the struggle that brought majority rule and might qualify as war collaborators, a situation that could create headaches for Mugabe’s administration after the huge compensation paid out to war veterans in 1997 precipitated a massive economic meltdown.