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War veterans want vetting exercise extended

Veterans of the liberation struggle have implored the government to extend the vetting period as the exercise was fraught with logistical challenges.

The vetting process took place from March 18 to April 4.

This came out during a review meeting held at Stanley Hall in Makokoba, Wednesday.

Former ZPRA freedom fighters said a number of veterans were not vetted and called on the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans to extend the vetting period to cater for those who missed out.

One female veteran who identified herself as Mrs Ndlovu said vetting points must be further decentralised as some centres were located far away from their homes.

“Matobo North had two vetting places – Silozwi and Baja and these are mountainous areas.To reach Baja one has to go to Nathisa then Khumalo West Turn where one can find transport. But transport is only found at Hamara. I had to walk 28km from Halale B to Baja and the vetting teams didn’t even come for the days they were supposed to, which meant walking twice” she said.

The veterans highlighted there was secrecy in the remuneration they ought to be given after the vetting exercise and expressed concern to what would happen to those who fail to be vetted.

The veterans also urged the ministry to include all other training camps that were previously not included in the vetting list, as they noted that cadres who were in Kafue, FC and Mboroma in Zambia were not included.

“Urban underground party activists who supported urban guerrilla units were left out. The issue of age has to be reconsidered and find a way to include those who fall below 16 years as at 31 December 1979 as stated in the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act,” said the veterans.

“The majority of incarcerated non-combatant cadres, particularly at Khami Prisons, were left out. Ex-political detainees, especially those who were at Stops Camps and detained for longer periods were excluded from vetting due to non-availability of records.”

One veteran who identified himself as Sibindi said he was a political detainee who has failed to be vetted thrice.

“In 1997, 2003, and now I have failed. I was told to look for someone to confirm my story. Those who could have confirmed me have died, even though I have affidavits. I was detained at Stops Camp, taken to Lupane then Esigodini and back to Stops Camp before we were tried at the High Court until 1979 when we were released,” he said.

Other ex-political detainees claimed police officers at the stations where they were detained were non-cooperative.

“Some police officers even went to the extent of saying -they were not yet born and could not bother looking for those records,” they said.

““The team did not give itself time to attend to those imprisoned comrades and the vetting team didn’t check registration forms, which clearly indicated that the registrants were prisoners.”

The veterans also noted that there was a language barrier as officials who came down from Harae used English, as they could not converse in isiNdebele while the cadres themselves could not use ChiShona.

“The process was very slow yet there were many people who were waiting. One person could take an hour inside. Perhaps there is a need for more personnel or a higher authority to monitor the process. There was no communication between the officers who are doing the vetting. They didn’t give people a chance to ask questions,” they said.

The former freedom fighters expressed concern at the lack of sanitation services at some vetting points.

“Women were sleeping in the open, without access to bath water. There is no reason to bunch many people when they serve less than 100 veterans a day. There was a lack of first aid and health personnel in the vetting centres yet that is not advisable,” they said.

They also alleged that in Mutoko, some vetting officials chased them from district council offices, where vetting was taking place, saying the process was only for Zanu PF members.

“They told us ‘imi muri vapanduki’ (you are sellouts) and were also chanting Zanu PF slogans,” said the former ZPRA cadres.

As part of their recommendations, the ZPRA cadres suggested that the Home Affairs ministry should engage the Police Commissioner so he could direct provincial and district station commanders to assist those who were detained in cells for longer periods.

“They can also issue people with confirmation letters. If records are not available at district police stations, people should be referred to appropriate centres where records are likely to be found,” cadres said

They also said the relevant ministry must beef up the vetting teams with more personnel, especially retired service men and women.

Since all the veterans have a right to be vetted, the veterans advised the government to facilitate its embassies to cater for those in the diaspora.

“Embassies are there to represent the people of Zimbabwe and most of these ambassadors or high commissioners were war veterans themselves during the liberation struggle. Some people in the Diaspora cannot come home for various reasons,” the former ZPRA cadres underlined.

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