Former female ZPRA fighters are appealing to well-wishers to support them in constructing a shelter to accommodate senior veterans who are living in deplorable conditions.
This housing initiative will provide living options for elderly veterans, as well as those who either have partial or full disabilities but need help, as they grow older since most former freedom fighters are struggling and cannot live an independent life.
The female veterans made this request after visiting a fellow compatriot, Delekile Mkhwanazi (74) at Entembeni Old People’s Home in Luveve, Bulawayo, Sunday where they made a donation.
Mkhwanazi, whose nom de guerre was Nomaswazi Tshabalala, travelled a lot with ZAPU founding president and late nationalist Joshua Nkomo to countries such as Britain, Cuba, Panama, Jamaica, America, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya among others during the liberation struggle days.
She started working at ZAPU head offices in the publicity office in Harare in 1975, where she was a clerk typist typing the Zimbabwe Star Newspaper and other correspondence for the party.
The Zimbabwe Star newspaper was ZAPU’s internal newspaper that disseminated information on the struggle to those in the country.
Mkhwananzi left the country to work in ZAPU offices in Zambia where she worked at the president’s office under Nkomo.
During the Malta Conference in 1978, when then ZAPU president (Nkomo), met with the British Foreign Secretary David Owen, for “clarification” on Britain’s position in the face of Ian Smith’s so-called “internal settlement”, Mkhwananzi was Nkomo’s secretary.
But looking at her current welfare, one cannot tell Mkhwananzi played a ‘huge’ part in liberating the country.
As she received her donation, Mkhwananzi said if only people could see her passport and see the numerous stamps of countries she had gone to, they would marvel.
In an interview with CITE, Treasurer General of former ZPRA women in Bulawayo Province, Sithabile Dube, said it was painful to see how the real icons of the struggle were suffering.
“Gogo Mkhwananzi is the one who organised Nkomo’s trips and would travel with him. But the state she is in now doesn’t show that. It’s so painful to us former veterans when you ask what we or she as an elderly woman have benefitted after playing a part in liberating this country,” she said.
“Since Joshua Nkomo is dead now, no one will remember her because no one knows anything about Gogo Mkhwananzi.”
Dube said although the female veterans were struggling to make ends meet as well, they came together and contributed what they could to buy Mkhwananzi some supplies.
“Comrades contributed what they had and sent in their contributions to me as the treasurer-general. We managed to buy groceries including kitchen and laundromat supplies for Gogo Mkhwananzi and other housemates,” said the former freedom fighter who added, if it were possible they would appreciate a housing programme that catered for senior veterans.
“We need something like shelter that can provide assisted living facilities for comrades, where they can be well-taken care of.”
She added that the veterans were now trying to make contributions for another ZPRA combatant, Moffat Ncube, in Cowdray Park Suburb who injured his leg after stepping on a land mine in 1979.
“As comrades, we have to try and take care of each other but these are also the same comrades who are also struggling. It’s just painful when you think about the hardships fellow comrades go through. We hope one day, to restore each veteran to his or her highest level of well-being,” Dube said.