BY VENERANDA LANGA
ZIMBABWE’s liberation war fighters have demanded that the proposed Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board, set to take care of their welfare, should be chaired by ex-Zipra and ex-Zanla combatants on a rotational basis.
This came out during public hearings on the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle, 2019 Bill, which were held in the Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces this week. The Bill is currently before Parliament.
Among other provisions the Bill will establish the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board and spell out its composition and functions. Presently, war veterans’ concerns are being championed by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.
Sonny Key Mguni (Bubi MP Zanu PF), who led a team of MPs from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs who are gathering evidence from war veterans told Southern Eye that former Zipra fighters were demanding 50/50 representation on the board with their ex-Zanla counterparts.
“Everywhere the committee went in Matabeleland and Midlands, war veterans suggested there must be rotation of board chairpersonship by Zanla and Zipra,” Mguni said.
“They said if a chairperson of the board is Zanla, and their term expires, then the incoming term must be chaired by a person from Zipra,” he said. Mguni said former fighters also demanded that the title of Commander of the Defence Forces be changed to High Commander.
“Everywhere we went – and there was 100% attendance – the committee was told by war veterans that they now want the commander of the army to be a war veteran,” Mguni said.
“They said the term Commander of the Defence Forces must be changed to High Commander, adding that the person they want to command the army must be a very experienced person and not a mafikizolo (Johnny come lately),” he said.
If passed as is, the Bill will have a profound economic impact given that the former freedom fighters are pushing for their pensions to be at the same scale with a retired army major or lieutenant colonel.
“They were clear that they want their legacy respected in the same manner that World War II veterans are cherished and well taken care of. They said their children should benefit and be supported through scholarships, adding that the Bill should stipulate that their medical care should include access to hospitals outside the country,” Mguni said, adding that there were also calls for monthly stipends commensurate with the poverty datum line.Among other privileges, section 21 (1) of the Bill stipulates that war veterans are entitled to 20% of gazetted State land.