Children of former freedom fighters are not happy with the way government has treated their parents, leading them to grow up under immense poverty despite the critical role they played in liberating Zimbabwe from colonial rule.
The war veterans’ sons and daughters are expressing these sentiments at a time Zimbabwe is preparing to commemorate its 36th independence anniversary.
Those who spoke to Studio 7 claimed that their parents are remembered by the ruling elite when Zanu PF is campaigning in crucial elections.
Timothy Guruva, whose father fought several well-known battles in some parts of the country during the liberation war of the 1970s, says his family is suffering despite living with a person who is a former combatant.
“What I see as a son of a war veteran, you find that government has let down the people who went to the trenches and fight for the country. They are lowly paid and are the last to get their salaries and most of them are not employed as they are not educated, their general welfare is in shambles so it affects us as their children.”
War veterans received gratuities of $50,000 each in 1997 but despite that windfall, most of them and their families are living in abject poverty. Most of them get monthly pensions of $150 each, which they claim are not enough to cater for their needs. Zimbabwe’s poverty datum line is estimated at more than $540 for an urban family of six.
Charles Gwenure, is another son of a war veteran, who says his father is failing to feed them let alone pay for their school fees due to the low state pensions.
“Government promised to pay school fees for us the children of war veterans but its failing to honour its promise. We are being humiliated at school as we are constantly sent back home for failing to pay fees and this is all because of the way our parents, the heroes of our country are being treated by the government.”
Apart from such challenges, the children of the war veterans also claim that government does not have medical schemes for former freedom fighters, who are getting old and have become susceptible to some diseases. They claim that they are also not being catered for in terms of healthcare.
The children say they are no longer proud to be associated with Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Lucia Gandu of Muchabiwa in Gutu communal lands, Masvingo province, is one of them. “Personally I am not proud of being a daughter of a hero because we are not benefiting from the economic and empowerment programmes in the country, even in education we are not benefiting and so I am not benefiting for the sacrifice my parents made.
“Even them they do not benefit a lot that’s why we’re struggling. They only benefit in times of elections when they are financed to aid the party campaigns.”
She adds that instead of being recognized economically as young people born of parents who brought freedom to the country, they are regarded as loyal party youths who are used as agents of political violence during election campaigns.
Her sentiments were echoed by Tonderai Gumbi of Mucheke high density suburb. “My experiences are not that good as a son of a hero. Since I was born we have been struggling and my parents have been sidelined in economic programs like the land reform despite the role they played during the war. The only thing they get is special mention during national events like the Independence and Heroes days but they have nothing for themselves economically.”
War Veterans Minister Tshinga Dube says, "Government will continue to take the welfare of war veterans seriously and we are currently having meetings to resolve some of the issues affecting them. As for school fees for their families, we had a small challenge at the Ministry of Finance and it has been resolved so very soon the fees for our children will be coming.”
There are an estimated 30,000 war veterans in Zimbabwe.