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.
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.”
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.”
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)