By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |
Welfare Services for War Veterans, Tshinga Dube has queried the remaining population of ex-combatants, saying the figure has remained static even though they are dying at a fast pace.
Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo last Friday, Dube did not disclose the war veterans’ mortality rate, nor did he indicate if his ministry had updated statistics or was just depending on guess work.
“We’ve 34 000 registered war veterans, but with the way they are dying at a very fast pace and old age, it’s difficult to ascertain their numbers,” said Dube.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has maintained the figure at 34,000 for more than a decade.
Recently, Zanu PF youths challenged the war vets to a combat and said most of them were sick.
Thirty six years after the attainment of independence from colonial rule in 1980, most of the ex-freedom fighters are now more than 50 and suffer mental and physical ailments that resulted from their experience during the war and after.
Government has paid lip service to the welfare of the veterans despite using them as foot soldiers during election campaigns and other Zanu PF-initiated programmes such the fast track land redistribution exercise that commenced in 2000.
A significant number of the former freedom fighters came back from the war with physical disabilities.
The ex-combatants bullied government into awarding them large payouts in 1997, but most of them have nothing to show for the huge amounts whose disbursement sparked a steep fall in the Zimbabwean dollar.
Dube said his ministry was struggling to register war collaborators because it was difficult to verify claims of having participated as assistants and informants during the war.
War veterans are receiving a monthly pension from government, in addition to other modest benefits like school fees but Dube would not say how much was being spent on ex-combatants.
“I can’t tell you how much each one gets from the war veterans pension. It depends on the percentage of incapacitation. Some were five percent others 20 percent and others lost all their legs they are given about 80 percent,” he said.
Anti-corruption experts fear that ghost war veterans and non-existent children of the ex-fighters are being paid large sums of money from treasury. Nehanda Radio