Parliament debates ZPRA petition on war veterans act

Members of Parliament (MPs) have urged the government to attend to concerns raised by former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) fighters on the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act Parliament (Chapter 17:12).

This comes after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence Home Affairs and Security Services moved a motion in Parliament on a petition presented by the ZPRA cadres.

Chairperson of the committee, Retired Brigadier-General Levi Mayihlome on Tuesday moved the motion to address some specific issues that were unsatisfactorily covered in the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act.

ZPRA veterans last year appeared before the committee to air their views, pushing for the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs to amend the aforementioned Act, particularly the section on interpretation, to provide clear definitions of ‘non-combatant cadre,’ ‘transit camp,’ and ‘war collaborators’ by September 30 2021.

They also raised other issues which were not expressly stated in the petition but also required attention, of which by clearly defining the cited terms and addressing the additional gaps noted, the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act would make sure no veteran was excluded in all government programmes.

“While acknowledging the various progressive provisions of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act [Chapter 17:12], the Committee implores the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs to consider the petitioners’ observations. Indeed, the Committee appreciates the Ministry’s undertaking that most of the concerns raised could be resolved administratively without necessarily amending the Act and hence, it is hoped that the implementation should be expedited in order to fulfill those administrative obligations. Informed by these pertinent observations, I now commend this report for consideration by the august House,” Rtd Brig-Gen Mayihlome said.

Member of Parliament for Dzivarasekwa, Edwin Mushoriwa, concurred that the ZPRA petition touched a lot on issues that have not been addressed.

“We are in 2021, which is 41 years after independence. It is actually sad that we have a lot of gaps pertaining to the war veterans that fought the liberation war. I want to thank the ZPRA War Veterans for having brought this petition to this august House and also thank the Committee on Defence through its competent Chairperson who has brought in the report,” he said.

“In my view, there is an attempt to belittle the view from the ZPRA War Veterans. We know from the history of this country that a number of ZPRA War Veterans have not benefited compared to the ZANLA ones primarily because of the history that happened after 1980.”

Mushoriwa said it was going to be better if the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services had come with a draft Bill of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act.

“Remember, Parliament has started a programme, and for a month or two; there was a virtual training on Members Private Bills. I believe that when a petition comes, rather than to say ‘Ministry of Defence we are giving you up to 30 September to amend’ – the problem is that the Executive may decide, in its own wisdom, not to prioritise the work,” he said.

“This is where I would have loved a situation where our committees are empowered, working with Counsel to Parliament, to come up with the amendment to the Bill so that we have amendments to this particular Bill from the Portfolio Committee. The Committee was supposed to be reporting what they got both from the ZPRA War Veterans and the League of War Veterans.”

He argued that making recommendations did not do justice to ZPRA’s petition.

“The truth of the matter is that when the ZPRA War Veterans get this report, they will simply feel that Parliament should have done more. I actually want to urge you Mr. Speaker Sir, that I think in future, when we get such petitions, we need to empower Parliamentary Committees to go beyond the issue of making recommendations but work with Counsel to Parliament and produce the relevant amendments that they have seen to make sense rather than to pile work on the Ministry which may have other priorities.”

Edwin Mushoriwa.

Member of Parliament for Mabvuku constituency, James Chidakwa, added it should not take long to amend issues raised by the war veterans.

“Looking at the response that is coming from the Ministry, it is actually clear that there is nothing that is very difficult to find. I think that the issue that is there is that we need to fix the issue of war veterans, if we agree that these people are important, then why is it taking too long for us to resolve their issues?,” he said.

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