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War vets demand $13,5bn

By Blessings Mashaya

As part of the resolutions passed at the just-ended Zanu PF conference in Esigodini last week, it was agreed that members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) be rewarded in cash or kind for the instrumental role they played in ending colonial rule.

War Vets Secretary General Victor Matemadanda
Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary general Victor Matemadanda

It was therefore resolved that those who are still to benefit from the haphazard land reforms of the early 2000s be given access to land, among other featherbeddings.

“All war veterans who have not yet benefited from land allocation should be given land. The war veterans should be given their land quota promised by government as this phenomenon has not been followed. The liberation war fighters want to be exempted from land tax on the land they liberated,” the party stated in its resolutions.

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“There is need to improve the general welfare of war veterans and honour the monetary pledge that government made to them, like in the case of all liberation armies in the region and beyond. The vetting process of war veterans who have been excluded should be expected, expedited and completed.”

As if that is not enough, the former liberation war fighters took to the streets of Harare yesterday, demanding that Mnangagwa’s administration look into their welfare.

In a petition addressed to the presidency, the ex-combatants are pushing for monthly pensions of $2 000 each, clearance of arrears and implementation of all the other benefits provided for in Statutory Instrument 280 and 281 of 1997 such as the medical, funeral, and settlement benefits.

They are also pressing for the settlement of “the outstanding” $450 000 once-off gratuity to both the living and beneficiaries of the estates of all war veterans who passed on, which could gobble up $13,5 billion for the 30 000 war veterans on government’s books.

Analysts canvassed by the Daily News this week said while the legacy of the liberation struggle is respected without question, along with the sacrifices of genuine war veterans, some elements within ZNLWVA have become parasitic, with a sense of entitlement that could lead the country to ruin if Zanu PF dances to their every whim.

“If Mnangagwa is not careful about these current demands, it could worsen an already bad economic situation. It will backfire because it will ruin the economy and war veterans have no real political power to talk of. Power lies with the military,” said political analyst Dewa Mavhinga.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group said while Mnangagwa could be trying to appease the former liberation war veterans by showering them with monetary and nonmonetary rewards, his generosity could impact negatively on the country’s dying economy.

“Promises on the land issue reflect the continued mind-set in Zanu PF that they, rather than the State, are the primary custodians and decision-makers on the land. How this relates to reform promises on tenure etc. remains to be seen?” opined Piers Pigou.

ZNLWVA has been an integral part of the ruling party even though the supreme law of the land expects them to be nonpartisan.

The ex-combatants have been instrumental in waging a brutal campaign against the opposition until around 2015/16 when they fell out with former president Robert Mugabe for campaigning for Mnangagwa, who was vice president at the time, to succeed the 94-year-old despot.

While it was the Zimbabwe Defence Forces which masterminded Mugabe’s fall through a soft coup in November last year, it was the war veterans — through ZNLWVA — who did the groundwork under the leadership of the now under-fire Chris Mutsvangwa.

Now that Mnangagwa is firmly in charge, the war veterans are now demanding their pound of flesh for the role they played in ushering him to power.

Recently, Defence and War Veterans deputy minister Victor Matemadanda told members of the Senate that war veterans, war collaborators and detainees must have a say in the economy.

He disclosed that they have been engaging officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who made an undertaking to sponsor projects and programmes for war veterans. 

“Our request is that if the money is allocated to the war veterans and when the war veterans receive it, they should be capacitated to start businesses,” he said.

In 1997, government, under unrelenting pressure from marauding war veterans led by the late Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, was forced to award gratuities of Z$50 000 (then about $4 000) to each of the surviving 50 000 war veterans as well as monthly pensions of Z$2 000 in addition to extending education and health benefits to them and their family members.

The unbudgeted hefty payouts had grave consequences on the economy, with the country’s currency losing 72 percent of its value in a single day, on November 14, a day that is remembered in the country’s economic history as the Black Friday.

The economy never recovered from this severe knock.

In 2013, war veterans leaders insisted that their members were still owed $18 000 each, arguing that the Z$50 000 they were paid was only a down payment of the Z$500 000 government had agreed to pay them.

Currently, the war veterans are getting $200 monthly pensions and on top of that, the government is paying school fees for their children, medical allowances and funeral assistance when they die.

THE country’s former liberation war fighters have put President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in a tight spot by demanding monetary and non-monetary rewards at a time his administration could ill-afford such benefits. Daily News