High Court orders payment of gratuity to rejected war vet

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HIGH Court

By DESMOND CHINGARANDE
THE High Court has ordered the Defence and War Veteran Affairs ministry to pay a Chitungwiza man gratuity given to war veterans in the 1990s as compensation for taking part in the liberation struggle.

Marshal Rex Sibanda took the Defence ministry to court after it failed to pay him gratuities and pension afforded other war veterans.

He cited the ministry and the War Veterans board as the first and second respondents, respectively. Veterans of the liberation war received $50 000 in 1997 after pressuring the late former President Robert Mugabe to release the gratuities.

Sibanda filed a declaratory and enforcement order seeking confirmation that he was a war veteran and that he be awarded all pensions and benefits from the date he was vetted and certified when issued with a war veteran’s identity card.

Court papers show that Sibanda’s application was vetted in 1997 and a war veteran card was issued to him as proof after successful vetting, but he did not receive the gratuities.

He was trained at Tembwe Training Camp in Mozambique in 1976. In 1985, he joined the police, serving for 26 years, and five of the years were attributable to previous military service with Zanla forces.

A letter from the Colonial Administration at the army headquarters addressed to the Commissioner of War Victims Compensation dated August 28, 1992 confirmed that Sibanda failed to join the Zimbabwe National Army due to a disability and was demobilised in Chitungwiza. The State said he could not be considered as a war veteran when he applied for gratuities.

But in granting the order, High Court judge, Justice Emilia Muchawa explained the meaning of demobilisation as given by the Merriam Webster dictionary saying, it means “to discharge from the military service, to disband”.

The judge also cited a letter from Zanu PF implying that Sibanda was an active participant in the military activities of Zanla’s military wing.

“It supports the applicant’s (Sibanda) case and the war veterans card issued to him goes to prove that he was then accepted as an ex-combatant. The two letters from the army serve to show that the applicant is an ex-Zanla combatant. The September 1996 letter even states the rank he held during the war,” Justice Muchawa said.

“The applicant be, and is hereby confirmed by this honourable court to be a war veteran as defined in section 2 of the War Veterans Act (Chapter 1115) 2. The respondents shall, within seven days of service of this order upon them, register the applicant on the war veterans register. The respondents shall pay the applicant all benefits due to him including, but not limited to monthly pension, school and college fees and tuition on production of invoices, from the date of his registration as a war veteran in 1997 to date.”

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