Some veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation and the country’s main opposition are accusing President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party of neglecting former freedom fighters who do not support the former liberation party.
Some of the ex-combatants loyal to Zanu PF have not been spared by the growing factionalism in the ruling party.
Thirty-five years after the country attained its independence from British colonial rule, some war veterans are still complaining that the government is not doing enough to cater for their welfare.
One such former freedom fighter is Jim Mbewe, who hailed the government’s creation of a full ministry responsible for the welfare of the former freedom fighters. While Mbewe commended President Robert Mugabe’s government for creating such a ministry, he bemoaned the deplorable living standards of some of the war veterans.
Another war veteran, Johannes Mbeko, echoed Mbewe’s sentiments. He said the setting up of the ministry was a positive constitutional step, but expressed fears only a few veterans would continue to benefit from government programs financed through the ministry.
OPPOSITION WAR COLLABORATORS LEFT OUT
Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said although there are commendable mechanisms in place supported by the constitution of Zimbabwe to accord war veterans, collaborators, detainees and restrictees the honor and compensation they deserve, the current situation is a far cry from expectations.
The opposition official said many veterans outside Zanu PF are being left in the cold as the ruling party uses what he described as, “a selective and unbalanced system that is based on affiliation and allegiance to those in power.”
Gutu, who contributed to the war of liberation as a collaborator, said he is one of the many Zimbabweans whose applications for land allocations were turned down when the Zanu PF government embarked on the land reform program in 2000.
Meanwhile, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association, Josephine Gandiya, said her association is happy so far with the way the Zanu PF government is handling the affairs of war veterans, testifying that members of her organization that are loyal to the ruling party are benefiting from the ministry.
Gandiya, however, said the ministry's programs should benefit every war veteran regardless of political affiliation since it’s a constitutional right not a party privilege.
DEEPENING FACTIONALISM UNSETTLING WAR VETS
On the other hand, deepening factionalism within the ruling party has not spared some ex-combatants within Zanu PF from being victimized, according to chairperson Innocent Mhlanga of a Zanu PF-aligned youth group calling itself Children of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association.
Mhlanga added that his organization was not happy with the way in which a Zanu PF faction, commonly known as Generation 40 or G40, is treating war veterans.
G40 is reportedly made up Young Turks that are backing First Lady Grace Mugabe, who is now touted as one of her frail and aging husband’s potential successors.
In the run up to Zanu PF’s congress held in December last year, where she successfully campaigned to be the Zanu PF Women’s League Secretary, the first lady told the world that she was aiming for a higher political office but later chose to keep Zimbabweans guessing on her political future when she said she harbored no presidential ambitions.
In the mid of factional fights within the ruling party, Mhlanga said ex-combatants were now being caught in the cross-fire.
MINISTRY DOING ITS BEST
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Ex-detainees and Political Restrictees, Retired Brigadier General Asher Walter Tapfumanei, defended his ministry saying all its activities are above board.
Despite that, the ministry has said that one of its mandates is to advance Zanu PF’s interests. Tapfumanei said his ministry was created in fulfillment of the new constitution that was adopted in March 2013.
He added that all war veterans were not being discriminated upon, adding that ex-combatants had a choice, like anyone else, as provided for in the national constitution, to belong to any political organization of their choice.
While the welfare of war veterans remains a topical matter close to three decades after the country gained its independence, it remains unclear when authorities will address once and for all the issues that the ex-combatants are complaining about.