Three years awaiting trial: War vets call on Mnangagwa

The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) says the 39 war veterans arrested in 2021 during a pension protest remain on remand and plan to appeal to President Emmerson Mnangagwa for intervention.

“War veterans have approached the association’s leadership on the 39 veterans who are on remand for the past three years. The government should release them unconditionally because they committed no crime. I don’t know what our president is thinking about that,” said ZNLWVA chairperson Andrease Ethan Mathibela at the Bulawayo Media Centre on Monday.

“We feel you can’t indefinitely put someone on remand on something he or she is rightfully entitled to, especially if it’s by law.”

The 39 war veterans were arrested on  October 25, 2021, charged with “breaching the peace”, after demonstrating and singing Chimurenga songs on their way to President Mnangangwa’s office in Harare to demand a review of their monthly pension that was less than US$100.

On October 29, 2021, Harare magistrate Barbra Mateko ordered their release on US$40 bail ahead of their upcoming trial a month later.

In March 2022, the war veterans suffered a setback after a Harare magistrate dismissed their application for exception.

The ZNLWVA chairperson said it was worrying how their colleagues were still on remand three years later.

“When the government was not paying us our money, some of our colleagues decided to approach the highest office, that is the president. On their way, they were arrested. It has been three years and as we speak they are still on remand,” Mathibela said.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of Job Sikhala but he is out having been in prison for 595 days yet the war vets who participated in the struggle and committed no crime are still on remand three years later.”

Mathibela questioned what crime these war vets had committed yet sacrificed to bring Zimbabwe’s independence that “a few are enjoying up to today.”

“Three years ago, we were awarded US$2 000 just like anyone who negotiates. Civil servants negotiate and any other employee negotiates for a decent disposal income. We negotiated and took the government to court and we were awarded US$2 000 per month by a High Court Judge,” he said.

“People are singing about a free Zimbabwe yet it’s because of our unwavering commitment to duty and we only wanted in return, like any other citizen, a decent way of living and we are not  clamouring for free lunch.”

The association said it was in the process of engaging President Mnangagwa to facilitate the release of their colleagues.

“We don’t think a Cabinet minister can set aside the remand. We are going to approach the president and I hope this time (we will). We had written a letter and had a physical meeting with Joram Gumbo, an advisor to the president. We are doing quite a lot. It’s only entirely up to the authority to look at our way,” Mathibela.

Mathibela also suggested that the imprisonment of the war veterans could be the reason why Christopher Mutsvangwa was fired as the Minister of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs.

“We don’t know maybe that could have been one of the reasons why Mutsvangwa was ousted but we have approached relevant individuals hoping they will take the message to the president. As the veterans, only the president using his discretion can help address some of these anomalies.”

In the 1990s, war veterans were given lump sums of $50 000 each after they protested against the lack of pensions.

Meanwhile, the ZNLWVA welcomed Mutsvangwa’s dismissal, saying he was a divisive leader who was “frustrating” the war veterans.

“We hoped the Mutsvangwa would use his specific role to help us address. He didn’t do so. He had given ZRP an instruction that when we ask for meetings, the police must not clear them. Mutsvangwa will say, ‘Don’t give them an audience. Let them clear with me.’ We wonder clear with him as what? No wonder we are happy he is no more because he was frustrating us,” Mathibela said.

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