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War veterans, widows being abused

By Prince Ndlovu

The savage mauling that Vice President Joice Mujuru is receiving at the hands of First Lady Grace Mugabe and her Zanu PF faction is raising fresh debate about Zimbabwe’s poor treatment of veterans of the liberation war, their widows and families.

Vice President Joice Mujuru and her husband General Solomon Mujuru
Vice President Joice Mujuru and her late husband General Solomon Mujuru

No one can dispute, for example, the fact that the late decorated liberation war hero, Solomon Mujuru — just like tens of thousands of other lesser known heroes and heroines — played a vitally important role in Zimbabwe’s tortuous road to majority rule in April 1980.

And so did his widow Joice Mujuru — a decorated liberation war heroine in her own right.

It is also a fact that many of these liberation heroes and heroines paid the ultimate sacrifice, with their lives, for the political freedom that Zimbabweans now enjoy. And while some came back from the war alive, they didn’t live long to enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices and died soon after.

As if all this is not bad enough, the sad reality is that even for those who are still with us, the majority of them live desperate lives — dirty poor and unappreciated by the very society for which they were willing to sacrifice everything. They have no housing, adequate pensions, medical aid and educational support for their families.

The situation is even worse for the families and widows of those heroes who have departed, such as Joice Mujuru, who today stands accused of treason, corruption, extortion, selling out, fanning factionalism in Zanu PF and gross incompetence, among a litany of malicious allegations vomited about with reckless abandon by people who have no clue whatsoever what it means to sacrifice for others.

This begs the question of whether it was a crime that our war veterans sacrificed their lives for the nation.

This question is pertinent 34 years into Zimbabwe’s independence because although our war veterans gave us their best, including their lives in some cases, it is becoming increasingly clear that their work is not fully appreciated even by their former comrades in the struggle, who should know better.

For me, how we care for those who risked everything for us is one of the most important tests of our nation’s soul and character. In that light, it is very sad to see that we are failing that test miserably as exemplified in our leaders’ treatment of Solomon Mujuru’s widow, Joice.

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Indeed, one can also ask what General Mujuru would think and say if he were able to come back and be with us again, regarding the shameful treatment we have given his wife and other widows of our gallant sons who languish in shocking poverty while many of our leaders who did not participate in war live on caviar and champagne?

It surely stands to reason, although none of them ever demanded this, that with their war service and sacrifice came a promise of support for them and their families in an independent Zimbabwe. And that promise should include access to education, medical care and other benefits to help them and their families to make it in life.

The fact that our war veterans, their widows and families continue to struggle to get basic necessities like health care and housing is wholly unacceptable and a terrible indictment on the leadership of Zanu PF as a whole.

Let me remind our leaders that every single one of us owes our fallen heroes a profound debt of gratitude. Because every time we cast our votes or speak our minds without fear, it’s because they fought for our right to do that.

In addition, every chance we get to make a better life for ourselves and our families is possible only because these heroes and heroines fought for the possibility of making Zimbabwe a land of opportunity, where anyone can make it if they try — our current untenable problems notwithstanding.

So, as I conclude I ask again, what these veterans have done so wrong to deserve the shabby treatment that we are extending to them, their families and their widows?

And by failing to extend basic support and care to their very own champions like war veterans, to whom then does Zanu PF want to bestow the democracy dividend that these gallant men and women fought for?

In addition, if talk of betrayal is now the common order of the day in the party of liberation, who among the present leadership of the party can point a finger of blame with a clean conscience with respect to this “selling-out” when they themselves have sold out their very own veterans this shamefully?

As Zimbabweans watch with keen interest what promises to be a week of reckoning for the ruling party, as its politburo meets on Thursday to digest the First Lady’s unbecoming attacks on Mujuru, many citizens will be beseeching those who are busy scheming and plotting against their very own to reflect on what history will say about them.

Zimbabweans will also be imploring all of the “comrades” that remain hell-bent on destroying the works of the heroes of this country to stick to the delivery of the goals of the liberation war to our long-suffering nation.

In the case of some Cabinet ministers caught in despicable political schemes, this means taking seriously their solemn oath of shaping the success of our battered economy for the good of all Zimbabweans.

Lastly, let me also implore all Zimbabweans themselves to stand resolute in reminding those working day and night to usher in turbulence within our country’s borders that the blood that flowed from those heroes and heroines of our struggle is on their hands as they scheme and plot silly political games at the expense of the country.

The nation is watching!

*Prince Ndlovu is the son of a departed war hero.