Lands, Agriculture, Climate and Rural Settlement, Air Chief Marshal Retired Perrance Shiri has defended a directive from the government to allocate more farmland to the liberation struggle veterans.
The veterans of the 1970s independence war have been handsomely rewarded in the past years with erstwhile president Robert Mugabe`s government in November 1999 shelling out huge packages which resulted in the Zimbabwe dollar plunging 71 percent in a single day.
The latest move has been met with mixed feelings with critics saying the government was trying to pacify the restive veterans at a time when the country is going through economic hardships.
In a letter dated June 18, 2019, Shiri issued a directive to eight provincial ministers of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland South, and Matabeleland North to identify land meant for war veterans.
He added that the mandate of his ministry compels the ministers of state, to play “your important role of identifying and prioritising the allocation of the land in the respective provinces.”
Shiri ordered the provinces, considering the diversity of ecological regions, to allocate the following farm sizes, to the Department of War Veterans Affairs:
Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland 1 000 hectares each, Midlands 2 000 hectares while Masvingo, Matabeleland North, and Matabeleland South are to allocate 3000 hectares each.
“May you also kindly take note that the subject directive should be implemented with immediate effect as it takes precedence over all other allocations for land. As such, it would be greatly appreciated if respective allocation schedules could reach my office by June 27, 2019,” he stated in the directive.
In a telephone interview with CITE Wednesday, Shiri, confirmed the development, saying the provinces were still in the process of identifying the land.
“Once the land has been identified it is not a matter of the war vets moving in to occupy that land or allocated plot. The land will be handed over to the Department of War Vets handled by the Ministry of Defence,” he said.
Shiri said it was then up to the Department of War Vets to decide and determine how the land would be given out and used by the war veterans.
“Perhaps they will form companies to run those farms, it is up to the Ministry of Defence to adequately decide.”
On the criteria to select the war vets, seeing that most ZPRA veterans had failed to access state benefits, the minister said he was unaware of the allegations and repeated that land would be handed over to the department of war veterans.
He added this move was meant to empower the freedom fighters and this avenue could turn out to be an investment for them.
“It’s to empowering veterans who participated in the protracted struggle for the liberation of the country. We had the land reform process, parcelled land to individuals and companies also benefitted from land and we feel war veterans should also benefit, why not. They can try investments and the farms be an act of living,” he said.
Commenting on the move, political analyst, Methuseli Moyo, said the pleas for land from war veterans could be genuine.
“War vets are almost like an arm of the ruling party and government and for that reason, they seem to be receiving a listening ear from the administration. The fact that they fought for the land makes their claim more legitimate, politically,” he noted.
Social commentator, Mandla Tshuma said the move did not make any sense, as this sounded like preferential treatment for some people over others.
“Why specifically war veterans when there are a lot of landless black people in Zimbabwe, some even within those communities where provinces are charged to look for land to resettle these war veterans.
“After compensating white farmers, effectively putting the interests of some people, ahead of the interests of people they allege vote for them; this preferential treatment of war veterans, who, by the way, are also earning pensions from the government is unfair. I believe young people, in the future, should look into this,” he argued.