By Blessings Mashaya
Daily News reporter Blessings Mashaya talks to War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube on a wide range of issues. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Are you happy with the welfare of the war veterans?
A: I wish I were but you know with this economic situation, as it stands, one cannot be really happy. We are facing a number of challenges. There are lot of demands to deal with the welfare of the people. It could be difficult to say one is happy. One can only be happy if there are sufficient resources to cover everybody’s needs and I don’t think that can be achieved with the current economic situation.
Q: What do you think needs to be improved on the welfare of war veterans?
A: You remember when the war ended, we did not address the issue of war veterans sufficient enough. Something was done but not enough. It took a bit of time from the day of demobilisation up to the time when the funds were raised to give war veterans some lump sum. At the time of demobilisation, we looked at very short-term issues.
We gave them some money but it was not enough to look after them for two, three years, it was for a short period. Later on, there was a lot of complaints and cries which led to that Z$50 000. However, even when that money was given, we did not actually plan for the long-term. Then as the time went on, some of the war veterans began to feel the pinch of living, some of them even felt that we were much better during the war than we are now.
That attitude grew but it was even worse because some of the war veterans were living better, they were moving with 4X4 cars, wearing suits, got some jobs in the civil service; but the civil service cannot employ all the people. First of all, you had to have certain educational qualifications to be employed in the civil service and as you know, most of the war veterans left school when they were still young, so they didn’t have those qualifications and they were thrown away.
Those who had continued with their school while some were at war found themselves in a better situation, they finished their secondary school and some of them went to universities. But most of these war veterans didn’t have such privileges. They were in a bad situation than the rest of the other people. They were given pensions, but it is too small to sustain anybody, the pensions were not measured according to the poverty datum line. For example, some of the war veterans are getting $150 a month, some even less. Some of those who were injured get little compensation and they are failing to work for themselves as some are blind, something needs to be done to address this issue.
Q: What is your target in terms of the pensions that war veterans must be getting?
A: I have recently said we should work on the issue of pensions while taking into consideration the poverty datum line. I am not sure, but I think it’s around $500. If each war veteran gets that money, it will sustain him, buying groceries, paying rentals and for their medical insurance. Yes, the money will never be enough, they have children who are going to school.
We are not able to pay the school fees of their children due to financial constraints. We have to look after their medical insurance but we are not able to do so and also their burial. Yes, we tried to raise their requirements for burial from $800 to $2 000 but that is not enough. If we also could get that money in time, because sometimes we get the money late, and the family will be forced to fork out money to bury their relative.
Q: There are political differences among the war veterans, what do you think is causing this?
A: I don’t think you are correct when you just look at differences among war veterans. Differences are part of our society, the party itself has got differences. I agree that we have various groups of war veterans, but war collaborators, ex-detainees and even widows of war veterans have differences, some of them say we are more important because our husbands were national heroes and yours are liberation war heroes but I think it’s an issue that bothers all of our people in Zimbabwe, even in churches and the opposition, our people have no tolerance. As I have said before, some of these differences are engineered with some of our leaders, they come up and instigate divisions. You find out that they are an appendix of senior people who encourage them to be divided. Don’t be surprised by these differences.
Q: Some war veterans accused you of siding with the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led group, further alleging that you are a member of a Zanu PF faction called Team Lacoste. What is your comment?
A: The fact is that (Mandiitawepi) Chimene’s group are a self-styled group, we have certain laws in our country. If you have an association, you need to register it, you must have a constitution and also go to the ministry of Labour and after that, you will be recognised as an organisation. But Chimene and (George) Mlala did not follow that route, they just woke up one morning, and said this one is the chairperson and this one is the vice chairperson. We say to them, “Where did you register your association?” This is why the court refused to recognise them. What we are saying is we will never change the rules to suit your game but you rather change your game to suit our rules. If there is a path to follow, you must do so. The leaders of these associations, the breakaway from Mutsvangwa’s association, they still want to say they are leaders of that association, which is not acceptable.
When you break away from an association or political party, you must form your own association; like what (Didymus) vaMutasa and (Rugare) Gumbo did after breaking away from Zanu PF, they formed their own party, even Mai (Joice) Mujuru cannot call her party, Zanu PF. They should form their own association with a different name and constitution. What we have said about Mutsvangwa, the people who have chosen him are the only people who have the right to kick him out and his executive. They must go back to their congress, that’s what their constitution says.
This has happened before when they kicked out Jabulani Sibanda. When they didn’t want him anymore, they called for a congress and replaced him. It is very difficult for our ministry to kick out Mutsvangwa because we didn’t elect him. He was kicked out of his constituency because he was elected. He was also kicked out of the politburo because he was appointed by the head of State.
But the president did not kick him out of the war veterans association because he did not elect him, it is the war veterans who must act. They think we are siding with Mutsvangwa but we are not. We work with anyone, anyone who is elected with a constitutional board, we work with him. As a ministry, we look after the welfare, we don’t know whose loyalty they are, and we support them.
Q: Over the last few days, we heard that you were not feeling well, how are you feeling now?
A: I don’t think anyone should care about my health. I see many people around, they have their own health problems. If my doctors say that I am not fit to continue working, I will obey my doctor and if the president says I should continue work, I will do so. And also my wife is more interested in my health.
Q: How far have you gone with your preparations to meet the president as war veterans?
A: The president promised to meet war veterans once every year but we have delayed the meeting. We were supposed to meet the president at the beginning of the year, but we had a number of challenges. War veterans’ land was repossessed, the president says no war veteran’s land must be taken. So we are trying to solve this before meeting the president. We can’t tell him the same problems. All veterans are invited, even the Mutsvangwa group.
Q: You are reportedly writing a book, how much progress have you made in that respect?
A: Yes, I have written a bit but there some things which are coming up. I don’t want to write many books. When I started writing the book, I was not the minister of War Veterans, so I want to put all this in.
Q: You are a senior member in Zanu PF. What do you think needs to be done to unite the party ahead of the 2018 elections?
A: I think there is too much pride in us. When we start to believe in certain values, we think that everyone must follow, that we do not look at other people’s grievances.
This issue of war veterans, they were expelled out of Zanu PF for allegedly insulting the president, writing the Blue Ocean document, they had authored the communiqué, they were taken to court but the court has not proven that they were actually the authors of the communiqué.
So if this has failed to be proven, why don’t we go back to the drawing board and say, “did they really write the communiqué?” It could have been some foreign intelligence that wanted to cause quarrels among us.
Why don’t we go back and say, “gentlemen, we failed to prove our allegations, because it is treasonous, if we can’t prove that someone is guilty of treason,why can’t we go back and say let’s work together, we were wrong or that the people who were accusing, failed to prove”.
We should go back and swallow our pride and move together as a united force. Some people become too proud to accept the truth. Daily News