A former veteran of the liberation struggle who participated in negotiations that saw the late former president Robert Mugabe giving in to war veterans’ demands in 1997 says the government still owes them $450 000 using that year’s prevailing rate.
War veterans were given lump sums of $50,000 each after they protested against lack of pensions. But the Zimbabwe dollar later plunged following the pay-out of the unbudgeted $50 000.
Recently, the government said 160 000 war collaborators have been vetted to be eligible to receive their pay-outs after missing out on the 1997 first round of disbursements.
But former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) regional zone commander, Andrew Ndlovu was not amused as he accused the government of reneging on its 1997 promises.
Ndlovu, a former national secretary for projects and development of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) then led by the late Chenjerai Hunzvi, said they met Mugabe and his late deputy Joshua Nkomo on August 21, 1997, for the negotiations.
“In that discussion, the war veterans association leadership made their several submissions and the first one was to request the President and Government of Zimbabwe to pay each war veteran Zimbabwe dollar $500,000,” Ndlovu said in an interview.
Ndlovu said Mugabe agreed, but made some amendments that saw each ex-combatant getting $50 000, leaving a balance of $450 000 with a promise that it will be offset in yearly budgets.
“The President then turned his proposal to us and said the balance of $450,000 was to be paid to each war veteran on yearly budget review. This never happened to this day.
“The balance has accumulated interest amounting to millions of dollars. We expect the government to meet and honour its obligations without delay as many of our comrades were dying fast due to old age.”
Ndlovu also accused the government of reneging on its promise to ensure 20% of the acquired land is allocated to war veterans.
“It was agreed that the proposed war veterans fund to meet ex-combatants requirements but all went in vain. It was also agreed that war veterans should form part of structures for identifying and allocation of land for resettlement but it never worked out just to mention but a few,” Ndlovu said.
ZNLWVA spokesperson Douglas Mahiya refused to comment on the matter while Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa was not responding to messages.
In 2021, police arrested 40 former freedom fighters who were protesting against poor pension earnings in Harare. Their case is still pending in the courts.