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War vets make fresh demands

Local News
The ex-combatants were represented by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) led by Ethan Mathibela.

WAR veterans have called on government to accord Freedom of the City and hero status to all ex-combatants for their role during the armed struggle.

The ex-freedom fighters made the demands during an engagement meeting with government representatives in Bulawayo last week.

The ex-combatants were represented by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) led by Ethan Mathibela.

The Mathibela-led executive is not a Zanu PF affiliate.

Mathibela told NewsDay yesterday that being granted Freedom of the City and hero status would be the “highest honour” for their sacrifices during the armed struggle.

“We propose that all war veterans be accorded the status of national hero, acknowledging their invaluable contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“This will bestow the highest honour and respect upon our comrades.

“We are not saying that we want to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. Why do they consider those with degrees only, leaving us out?

“Those politicians who sing louder are not genuine war veterans ... We are not doing this for monetary benefits, but as a way of appreciation for our sacrifice.”

Although the conferring of hero status should be a national issue, Zanu PF has over the years made the National Heroes Acre a place where only its members, some of them with questionable records, are buried.

Late former President Robert Mugabe went as far as telling the opposition and other critics to construct their own national heroes acre if they were not happy with the criteria used to confer hero status.

Critics have condemned the criteria used by Zanu PF, saying it is biased in favour of ruling party enthusiasts.

Zapu has since converted Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo into its own de facto heroes acre where its cadres who were denied national hero status such as Thenjiwe Lesabe, Lookout Masuku and Swazini Ndlovu, among many others are buried.

“We are committed to ensuring that all war veterans are granted stands that have titled deeds as a recognition of their sacrifices and service to the nation,” Mathibela said.

“This will provide a solid foundation for economic empowerment and security for our comrades.”

Outspoken war veteran Max Mkandla supported the call for the recognition of ex-freedom fighters.

“This is what should be preached across the whole country,” Mkandla said.

Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs minister Monica Mavhunga, however, said she was not aware of the meeting where the ex-combatants made the fresh demands to government.

“Let those who gave you the information give you all the details,” Mavhunga said when contacted for comment.

In 1997, Mugabe succumbed to pressure and awarded the war veterans unbudgeted for Z$50 000 gratuities (US$4 300 at the time) for their role during the war.

Since then, they have continued to make periodic demands to government and in return pledge their loyalty to the ruling party.

In past elections, they have been accused of leading violent campaigns, leaving several opposition supporters either dead, maimed or displaced.

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