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War veterans meeting in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province.

Zimbabwe’s former freedom fighters, who received gratuities of up to $50,000 each in 1997, are now pressing the government to give them vehicles and houses.

Zimbabwe's war veterans demanding houses, vehicles and increased allowances.
Zimbabwe's war veterans demanding houses, vehicles and increased allowances.

They also want President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to increase their 240 Zimbabwe dollar monthly allowances to the prevailing inter-market bank rates.

The fuming war veterans, who have in the past demanded diamond mining concessions and an increases in their allowances, said the government should act urgently to avert a political crisis in the southern Africa nation devastated by poverty exacerbated by a declining economy.

Speaking at a meeting in the Matabeleland South provincial capital, Gwanda, convened by the parliamentary committee on security, the former freedom fighters said they have been reduced to beggars due to the current harsh economic situation in the country.

An irate Witness Sebata, like his colleagues, said they want to live like war veterans in South Africa and Namibia.

“We want all war veterans to get houses in towns, cities and rural areas. We should also get vehicles. Can you (parliamentary committee and government) discuss this issue because as far as I’m concerned last time we had the Third Chimurenga … Sit down and seriously think about our everyday struggles and other issues affecting us. We want action now.”

War veterans at a meeting in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province.
War veterans at a meeting in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province.

His views were echoed by several other war veterans, including former Zipra combatant Thuso Maphala, who was drafted into the Zimbabwe National Army soon after the end of the liberation war in 1980.

Maphala said all former freedom fighters are struggling to make ends meet as they are getting an allowance of only 240 Zimbabwe dollars per month.

“Following the introduction of Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 (phasing out the use of multiple currency) our allowances was eroded by inter-market bank rates. We were getting $240 which was said to be equal to the American dollar. The money is supposed to be multiplied by nine as currently RTGS$9 is only one dollar when exchanged using inter-market rates. This is the only way out. We are suffering right now.”

Another war veteran, Rido Mpofu, demanded that the government should set a health fund for former freedom fighters so they can seek medical care in neighboring nations.

“I propose that there be a special fund in the Ministry of Health to cater for special illnesses or treatments in case we need to get medical care in neighboring countries. When I go to local hospitals I’m told that we are now only (70-75 years) and therefore we should take it as it is … On the other hand, some people aged 80 or 90 years get special treatment overseas.”

A war veteran, who is now facing eyesight problems, said disabled people who fought in the liberation struggle need to be well-looked after by the government.

“Can the government take care of all the people who are disabled like me? We are failing to take care of ourselves right now. War veterans are suffering and to some of us who are disabled, it’s worse. We get a small allowance which we are supposed to use for buying food, clothes, taking care of our medical needs and other issues. It’s not good enough to cover all these things. We deserve better treatment by the government than what we are going through right now. We fought for this country and therefore we deserve to be treated in a respectful way.”

War veterans meeting in Gwanda
War veterans meeting in Gwanda

Some women, who fought alongside their male counterparts in the liberation war, said they are currently unable to take care of their families, get land and enjoy a fair life.

Luckstar Gumbi said, “We are worse off than our male counterparts because we have even lost the A1 farms we were given by the government. Personally, I don’t even have a piece of land to stay with my children. We suffered in the bush (war of liberation) fighting for land which were are now being denied by the authorities because we are women.”

Responding to some of the issues raised by war veterans, Albert Nguluvhe of the parliamentary security committee said he will inform the government about their concerns.

“We have heard what you are saying … We will raise these issues with the relevant authorities. We were all in the bush together but indications are that some people are superior than others. We should all be the same as we fought for this nation.”

The former freedom fighters want to meet with Mnangagwa in an effort to resolve some of the issues they are facing.

The unbudgeted payouts in 1997 resulted in the Zimbabwe dollar losing its value by 70 percent in one day and analysts say the move signaled Zimbabwe’s economic downfall. (Information provided by Albert Ncube, VOA Zimbabwe Service)

Zimbabwe Labor Minister - Sekesai Nzenza

Zimbabwe’s Labor Minister Sekesai Nzenza told reporters in Harare, Monday, that the much-awaited forensic audit report of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is not yet ready for release to the public, as lawyers are unpacking it to rule out discrepancies, which she said would determine if what happened at NSSA were criminal or simply mismanagement.

“Some of the four issues to emerge were number one to do with corporate governance, number two, issues to do with IT, another one was to do with investment, and other issues to do with HR (Human Resources),” said Nzenza.

“But I want to say that in all those spots, there are some irregularities that required expert lawyers to unpack each one of them. So when you have a forensic report like that and its showing four absolutely key areas, it’s not the kind of report you simply present to the public . It needs to be unpacked, and presented not only to the public, but also to parliament.”

Nzenza dismissed reporters' questions that she is a beneficiary of some of the money looted from NSSA, and that Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira, who is currently in jail over corruption allegations stemming from the NSSA funds, had paid her to keep some of the findings in the NSSA report, under lock and key.

“That is nonsense, that is the nonsense I am talking about,” said Nzenza, continuing that “what is important is that if there are monies that are missing within NSSA, our role is to ensure that we recover that, and the forensic report is to enable us to look at the two ways – is there a criminal element? If there are criminal elements, they are being dealt with, within the court. If there are ways we can recover through our internal system that is what we are doing.”

Pressure is however mounting on Nzenza to release the report and get to the bottom of where the millions of dollars alleged to have been stolen from NSSA are and who stole them, with the ultimate aim of returning to pensioners, many of whom lost all their life savings, as a result.

Among those piling pressure is the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leadership and its members. The group’s Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, said they are prepared to taken Nzenza to court if the report’s findings are not released soon.

“If we see days going by without anything being done as she has said, we have already indicated to her that we will go to court,” warned Moyo. “That seems to be the only way left for us to know the truth. There are many people who know that we, as ZCTU, were the first to complain that we were not happy with the business or investment that was being done by NSSA, and we are not happy with the way the minster is using her authority over the board.”

Meantime, chairman of the NSSA board, Cuthbert Chindoori, said they anticipate the report will be released soon.

Zimbabwe Labor Minister and NSSA Board Chairperson Cuthbert Chindoori
Zimbabwe Labor Minister and NSSA Board Chairperson Cuthbert Chindoori

“The report is a public document, and it will be put in the public domain,” Chindoori said.

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