PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is literally on a charm offensive in a bid to woo war veterans, promising to cater for the welfare of the former freedom fighters.

Addressing the War Veterans National Assembly on Wednesday, Mnangagwa promised the constituency heaven on earth at a time when the government stands accused of abandoning the former freedom fighters, with most of them struggling to survive.

“My administration is ready to facilitate the broad-based empowerment of your membership so that you fully participate in the economy as well as the ongoing industrialisation, modernisation of our motherland. I direct the [Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs] minister [Monica Mavhunga] to quicken the implementation of interventions towards addressing the challenges affecting this special constituency,” Mnangagwa said.

There is mistrust between the government and the war veterans.

Veterans of the 1970s liberation war believe they are getting crumbs at a time when their colleagues in government ministries, department and agencies are living large, becoming an island of plenty in a sea of poverty.

They believe the ruling Zanu PF party only turns to the constituency when it wants to mobilise votes ahead of elections.

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The promises to improve their welfare have been made before. However, they turned out to be lies.

The constituency was abandoned in the first republic until they disrupted the late former President Robert Mugabe’s National Heroes Day address seeking attention.

This forced the government to pay each war veteran a lump sum of ZWL$50 000 (equivalent to US$4 000 at the time). The payment of the windfall, which was unbudgeted, is blamed for fuelling the sharp depreciation of the local currency on that Black Friday in November 1997.

The war veterans body is a key constituency for Zanu PF. It makes or breaks a leader.

They were the driving force in the fast-track land reform programme at the turn of the millennium, a key pillar of Zanu PF’s economic empowerment drive.

The land reform exercise resonates well with the electorate amid company closures and joblessness.

However, the constituency seems abandoned.

The war veterans were at loggerheads with former Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa accusing him of ignoring their concerns.

They celebrated when Mutsvangwa was fired.

The underperforming economy has left citizens, war veterans included, on the brink.

As the economic wheels come off, with poverty levels rising, it is a reminder to war veterans that the ship is off course.

They fought for equality and freedom of assembly and expression. They fought for a corrupt-free society.

That the economic cake is unevenly distributed is clear as evidenced by the widening gap between the rich and poor.

They are shaken when an anti-corruption blitz targets the small fish, leaving the heavyweights off the hook.

Land, one of the key factors of production, is in the hands of a few.

There are cases of so-called chefs who own more than one farm seized during the land reform programme, against the one-man one-farm policy.

For the war veterans, Mnangagwa’s promises on Wednesday echoed what they have heard over the years — promises and more promises, but zero implementation.