Zimbabwe to compensate 160,000 more war veterans, ex-detainees

BULAWAYO – The Zimbabwe government plans to pay one-off gratuities and monthly pensions to a new batch of 160,000 war veterans, war collaborators and ex-political prisoners who missed out during the first round of compensation in 1997.

The timing of the announcement, just months ahead of general elections next year, will raise vote-buying concerns in the opposition.

In 1997, when the government was cornered following months of protests, it paid out unbudgeted lump sums to nearly 50,000 war veterans leading to the collapse of the local currency which has never recovered.

In a notice on Saturday, the ministry of defence and war veterans said it had vetted 165,130 of 207,103 people who submitted applications for compensation in the latest round of calls.

Of that number, 144,200 or 87.3 percent were successful and 20,930 had their compensation bids thrown out while some 41,973 applications are still being considered. Using the success rate, it is projected that over 162,400 people are in line for the new payouts.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, facing pressure from trade unions to raise salaries of public sector workers, did not budget for the compensation in the current financial year, suggesting that any payments would be made in the new year.

In 1997, Zimbabwe’s government paid out Z$50,000 (US$4,300 at the time) unbudgeted gratuities to veterans of the 1970s war of independence who also received monthly pensions initially pegged at Z$2,000 (about US$174).

The compensation offer came after months of protests by veterans of the seven-year bush war that led to independence in 1980. The payments sent the Zimbabwe dollar plunging 72 percent against the United States dollar on November 14, 1997, a dramatic and sudden devaluation that set in motion the country’s eventual economic collapse.

The defence and war veterans ministry said the vetting process ran from March 17 to April 6 this year.

Names of those who were successfully vetted are set to be published in the government gazette, the ministry said. Those who were unsuccessful can still appeal to the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board within 30 days of publication.

Meanwhile, defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said those who still wish to be vetted have until August 31, 2022, to submit details to the district and provincial offices of the Department of War Veterans Affairs.

She added: “Among those who missed out are veterans in the diaspora who should also submit their details at our embassies around the world. They also have until August 31 to do so.”

Since 1997, the unvetted war veterans and war collaborators had become despondent at countless unfulfilled promises to compensate them.

The government appears eager to finally pay them on the eve of a crucial election, hoping to buy their support as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s five-year hold on power increasingly looks tenuous with the economy in free fall amid rising anger from workers whose salaries have been shrivelled by inflation and currency devaluation.

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