Moffat Hadebe, the first man to fire a gunshot marking the beginning of the armed struggle against white minority rule in 1964 is living in abject poverty and poor health despite his contribution to the country`s independence.
Former ZPRA combatants have often accused the Zanu PF led government of neglecting them and deliberately downplaying their contribution to the armed struggle.
Hadebe, who now lives in Magwegwe West with his family, is in dire need of medical attention.
The former ZPRA commander is struggling to buy groceries, medication and pay a doctor’s consultation fee, to the extent that he even failed to replace his damaged catheter, which costs US$3.
A catheter is a medical tube that is passed into the bladder to drain urine.
He is now unable to leave the house as he relies on a bucket to relieve himself.
After taking note of his plight, ZAPU’s social welfare department on Monday paid a visit to his home to deliver a new catheter and various groceries.
Led by the party’s Acting Secretary for Social Welfare, Mildred Mkandla, ZAPU members including the incumbent president, Isaac Mabuka were disappointed at how the state has neglected veterans especially those that fought under ZPRA.
“We heard that one of our members was feeling unwell and through our social welfare department, established that it was Hadebe who needs assistance,” Mkandla said.
“When I first came here, I was surprised to find Hadebe wearing shorts, with a towel wrapped around him. He even failed to attend a funeral of his brother in law because if he wants to travel, it would mean moving with a bucket.”
Hadebe’s wife was not at home, having left to for her brother’s funeral.
Mkandla then handed the catheter to Hadebe, which ZAPU had bought for US$3 at a pharmacy.
“The tube is US$2 and the pack is a US$1. We hope that he will have these replaced so he can be now in comfort. Look at how dry his legs are, he has not even applied Vaseline, what does this tell us? Hadebe lives here with seven other family members and as ZAPU we are saying let us take care of our veterans and neighbours, the little that we have we must share,” she said.
ZAPU also gave Hadebe ZWL$2 000 to use as consultation fee for his doctor’s appointment.
The party`s interim president Isaac Mabuka said it was disheartening to see a veteran suffer in this manner.
“This is what happens, when the government chooses to sideline ZPRA veterans who bravely fought in the war to liberate this country. Now we see how depressing the lives of former fighters are,” Mabuka said.
Hadebe expressed gratitude to ZAPU for the assistance and he too lamented that it was due to his “roots in ZPRA that veterans such as him were neglected by the government.”
He, however, revealed that he had spoken to (former veterans minister and ex-ZPRA) Tshinga Dube, who was helpful and had promised to relay his issue to the government.
“I asked Dube how we could suffer like this and he promised to look into the matter, he brought Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Bulawayo, Judith Ncube, who indicated members of the local Joint Operations Command (JOC) would also visit. Ncube also said the army doctors would attend to me,” he noted.
Hadebe also narrated how intense it was fighting in the liberation struggle, where his regiment had 107 fighters yet today only seven are alive.
“I remember fighting alongside David Tau, Petros June now in Zeerust and leader of the Umkhonto Wesizwe (possibly referring to Kebby Maphatsoe (once Deputy Minister of Defense and Military Veterans in South Africa),” he said.
“I was commander and we were six when that gun was fired in 1964 in Zidube Kezi which is 180km away,” he said recalling the moment.
Hadebe also narrated how he carried out a daring escape from Grey Prison in January 6, 1965.
“The newspapers of January 7 to 9, 1965 carried the details of our escape,” he said.