HARARE – Agitated war veterans, who claim to be owed millions of dollars in outstanding allowances by the government, say President Robert Mugabe and not opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should pay them their money as the nonagenarian was the one who had benefited the most from their liberation war efforts.
This comes as poverty, disease and neglect continue to claim the lives of many genuine former freedom fighters, as Zimbabwe’s economy continues to die — amid the ruling Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars.
The sentiments also follow the weekend’s Daily News interview with Tsvangirai who said he would take good care of the war veterans once he is elected into high office.
But a bitter spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Douglas Mahiya, said since the country attained its independence from Britain in 1980, war veterans had been neglected by the government, which had an obligation to look after them.
“Our children are not going to school and war veterans who were injured during the liberation struggle are not getting treatment. Many are also dying and not getting proper burials.
“War veterans programmes which were supposed to ease them back into society were not fulfilled, and so what are they expected to do?
“Are we supposed to go back to Mozambique and ask them to rehabilitate us? War veterans are suffering and it is only this Zanu PF government that should address those problems.
“If Tsvangirai comes into power, it is not his responsibility to do this because the MDC did not fight the war. It is Zanu PF’s responsibility to solve these problem now,” Mahiya fumed.
Since the mid-1970s, war veterans have anchored Mugabe’s leadership of Zanu PF, including the ruling party’s election campaigns after 1980 — waging brutal campaigns against Tsvangirai and the MDC since 1999.
However, the former freedom fighters appear to have since had a Damascene moment, and are now not only opposed to Mugabe, but are also warming up to Tsvangirai.
“Nothing has happened since June 7 last year, and government now owes us more than $46 million. We are also not benefitting from the scholarships that some are getting,” Mahiya said yesterday.
Last year, the government was forced to pay the disaffected war veterans $6 million to cover first term school fees for their children, but Mahiya said the figure was “a drop in the ocean”.
“When we went to war, we were fighting for Zimbabwe and if any leader wants to observe the Constitution, he should pay us because that is the right and legal thing to do.
“While the role we play is observed in the Constitution, this government is failing to meet its obligations,” he added.