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‘Zanu PF creating new bogus war veterans to get rid of dissent’ – Mliswa

Norton legislator Temba Mliswa claims the ruling Zanu-PF party is creating a league of ‘bogus’ new war veterans to get rid of those who are genuinely demanding better compensation.

This comes at a time when thirty-nine members of the War Veterans’ Welfare Pressure Group are being charged with participating in a gathering with the alleged intention to cause public violence. They were arrested in October last year for demonstrating over measly pension stipends.

Mliswa said the government project of vetting war veterans by the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board (VLS) was a “scam” meant to create new ex-combatants in order to dump those protesting over poor pensions.

“The vetting and inclusion of ‘new war veterans and collaborators’ is a pure scam. Zanu-PF fell out with the real war veterans who have been agitating for their money and the party has decided to fix them by creating new war veterans!! There is no sincerity in this,” he said.

“If the party was sincere about compensating War Veterans, outside politics, it should have done so with those vetted in 1997. So far it has failed to do so and yet purports to now seek to compensate an additional group. The very people who vetted them are not veterans themselves!”

The 39 war veterans have since filed a High Court application seeking to stay their trial on charges of promoting public violence for allegedly singing “Chimurenga liberation songs” during a protest staged against poor pension payouts.

The war veterans are aggrieved that Magistrate Barbra Mateko in April dismissed their application excepting to charges of promoting public violence when they asked prosecutors to furnish them with the songs and lyrics of the alleged Chimurenga liberation songs.

They are represented by a team of lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

ZLHR in a statement last Friday said: “Magistrate Mateko had in February upheld their initial application excepting to the charges of promoting public violence and asked prosecutors to amend the charge which originally stated that they had sang ‘Chimurenga songs’.

“However, in amending the charge, prosecutors only modified it by stating that they had sung ‘Chimurenga liberation songs’.

“Now the war veterans argue that the so-called amended charge is no amendment at all as prosecutors simply inserted the word ‘liberation’ between the words ‘liberation’ and ‘Chimurenga’ from the initial charge.

“They argue that it remains unclear as to which Chimurenga songs they were allegedly singing and their lyrics which created the impression that they wanted to forcibly disturb public peace, security or order.

“The war veterans also argued that Chimurenga liberation songs are routinely broadcast on state-run radio and TV and at events where people gather and without anyone getting arrested and charged for contravening Section 37 of the Criminal Code.”