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Selection criteria for war veterans board members questioned

Some war veterans have criticised the criteria for choosing members of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board saying it will be used to elbow out bonafide cadres.

The Ministry of Defence and War Veterans released an advertisement calling on qualified war veterans to apply for posts in the board in pursuant with the enactment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act (Chapter 17:17).

Applications were invited from the four categories of the liberation struggle veterans – war detainees; ex political prisoners and restrictees; non-combatants and war collaborators who have qualifications in the following fields: Finance, Business, Accountancy, Commerce, Engineering, Human Resources, Economics, Law, Agriculture and Geology.

Masters Degrees and membership of recognised institutes such as CIS was listed as an added advantage while the deadline is October 30, 2020.

According to the advertisement, the board will also have a secretary and legal practitioner.

But, ZPRA Veterans Association, Secretary-General Petros Sibanda, said the criteria will disadvantage a lot of former freedom fighters.

“We have noticed quite a number of concerns which will affect the selection of board members in those four categories. The problem is the advert is a window dressing stunt, as I look at it and appears as if the government already has its target appointees,” he said.

Sibanda noted that the generality of war veterans did not meet the selection criteria.

“I think the government wants to choose people who are detached from the generality of the veterans of the liberation struggle so that they work according to what they want themselves, not what is wanted by the veterans. Our concern is there are comrades who were deep in during the struggle and since independence have acquired wide experience and expertise in running organisations and associations whose tremendous experience can be tapped into the board,” he said.

According to the advertisement, key functions of the Board include advising the Defence Minister on the establishment of any scheme addressing issues relating to rights, benefits and general welfare of the veterans, administering the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Fund and determining representations by any persons denied accreditation as veterans.

The board will consist of highly competent veterans of the liberation struggle appointed on the basis of skills, experience and qualifications, giving due regard to gender equality plus fair regional representation, read the advertisement.

ZPRA’s Sibanda argued the board members must be comrades who had the welfare of the former freedom fighters at heart, not those who will serve the status quo.

“We need people who have been rubbing shoulders with the public and know how hard life has been since the attainment of independence really. It should be a representative board not more of an academic or professional board,” he said.

“The board must accommodate war vets as a special interest group, it must also incorporate a participatory approach. War vets are or were in different categories as we know right now, some war veterans are in training, some in deployment, some in the Zimbabwe National Army, civil service, academics, some were demobilised, some were disabled by the war plus the fallen heroes.”

The secretary general said this board must also be representative of the four categories who deserved a chance.

“I think the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act also says these four categories should bring forward names or second names to the board, not the other way round. We are again going to raise those concerns and hear the way forward,” Sibanda said.

ZPRA veterans’ association spokesperson, Buster Magwizi, weighed in saying the criteria is “grossly unfair.”

“It seems the government wants to appoint non war veterans into the veterans’ board. Some people will be able to swivel through as anyone can apply if they are qualified. What if you are an interested war veteran but not qualified what will you do,” he said.

Magwizi lamented that as ZPRA, some of their veterans would be excluded due to marginalisation policies.

 “We will have imposters on this board and we have been duped left, right and centre for 42 years. We are cheated at every turn. As ZPRA, we the war vets must be in receipt of every application and they must be vetted. Applicants must be called for interviews. These imposters will want to receive perks when they don’t qualify to be war vets. That is unfair and needs to be untangled,” he said.

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