War Vets besiege Biti’s office over pensions
A rowdy group of war veterans aligned to Zanu PF on Tuesday besieged Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s office in Harare demanding a review of their monthly pension payouts.
The group accused Biti of incompetence and presiding over the demise of the economy. This is despite Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation under the Zanu PF regime in 2008, smashing world records at 516 quintillion per cent.
The war veterans, allegedly bused in by Zanu PF, called for Biti’s immediate resignation and castigated the minister for failing to prioritise the civil servants’ salaries and working conditions.
Some of the placards read: “President Mugabe Zimbabwe needs a new Finance Minister”, “Biti has failed and must go” and “You have refused to pay farmers — You must leave office.”
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Harare Province commissar Rai Gwenyambira said they were asking for modest pension payouts in tandem with the poverty datum line.
Three months ago, she said, Biti agreed to address their plight, but failed. Rai said to date the former freedom fighters had not received anything from Treasury.
“We petitioned him three months ago and we thought he would do something as he promised, but we are still struggling to make ends meet. Enough is enough and the fact that he has failed means he has to leave office as a matter of urgency.”
Most war veterans are getting US$130 as a monthly pension payout while the poverty datum line is pegged at US$596. The war veterans said they would sleep over at the minister’s office until he addressed them.
ZNLWVA secretary for lands Isso Madzivanyika said their children were being sent away from school for non-payment of fees.
“We are not leaving this place until he addresses us. If it means sleeping over here then let it be. Most of us are farmers and we survive on that and when we deliver grain to GMB we expect Treasury to pay us on time.
“We are failing to plan for the forthcoming season because there is no money to do so,” he said.
Commenting on a strike by civil servants in July this year Biti told Senators in Parliament that next time civil servants stage a demonstration against government for better pay, he would join them.
Biti said he wanted better pay for civil servants but “the problem is that 73 percent of the budget is going towards 235,000 people, leaving only 27 percent for 14 million.”
Biti said: “Next time they demonstrate, I am going to join them so that we can go together to the Ministry of Mines to bring money for diamonds and also to the Ministry of Defence to ask why they are over-employing.”
This was in reference to Anjin, an army/Chinese controlled diamond firm, that has failed to remit any money to Treasury. The Ministry of Defence has also been going ahead recruiting for the army, despite there being no government agreement on this.
Meanwhile it’s not the first time war vets and Zanu PF militants have besieged Biti’s office. Following a bust up between Biti and Mugabe in a meeting last year, a petrol bomb was thrown at the durawall of his house and ZANU PF has sponsored many other demonstrations at his office.