ZPRA veterans push for compensation
ZPRA veteran`s association says more than eleven thousand members of its members are still to receive compensation amid reports the Zanu military wing, ZNLA has over one million members awaiting vetting and compensation.
Vetting of war veterans is underway to register combatants who had not been previously vetted so they can be eligible for compensation backdated to 1980.
The association has submitted a vetting list with 11 403 veterans who have not received any compensation from the government.
In 1997, the Robert Mugabe led government succumbed to pressure from the war veterans to pay them ZW$50 000 gratuities and other benefits for their role in the liberation struggle.
The association`s secretary general, Baster Magwizi, said the vetting committee was still making frantic efforts to engage the government officials on the vetting exercise.
“A meeting in Gweru with War veterans’ deputy minister, Victor Matemadanda revealed that vetting in Mashonaland was already underway and would move from province to province.
“Those who have to be vetted include those who received training, fought in the war, those who were in the process of training, those who were deployed to teach in places such as Zambia, detainees and restrictees, those who fell in battle, including their dependents.
“We are trying to make sure that once vetting starts all our cadres are entitled to receive benefits in terms of welfare,” he said.
Magwizi confirmed that as of three years ago, the number of ZPRA veterans who were yet to be vetted stood at 11 403.
“ZPRA did present their book which contains the number of its combatants to the Ministry of Defence three years ago even though there are some ZPRA cadres who escaped 40 years ago from Gukurahundi and sought shelter in South Africa or in Diaspora.
“We resolved that these cadres should be informed and come back home for vetting once the exercise comes to Matabeleland.
“We have the names and they can be verified but the government has been dillydallying throwing overtures, trying to stop this process because probably they want us in a state of poverty where we continue asking endlessly. This poverty is now causing divisions amongst us,” he said.
Magwizi said the claimed one million ZANLA ex-combatants vetting list was shocking considering the country’s population back then.
“We understand Pupurai Togarepi is one who submitted the names, yet we who were fighting in the war know that he alongside the likes of Andrew Langa were temporary teachers. When we asked who was on that list for it to reach one million, we were told it was inclusive, with recruitees, detainees, cooks, restrictees, I am sure even their girlfriends were also included,” he joked.
Magwizi recalled that Matemadanda was once cornered by the ZPRA Veterans Committee at Stanley Square in Makokoba a month ago but failed to provide answers.
He also claimed that Zanu PF’s one million vetting list even shocked Finance Minister, Prof Mthuli Ncube when it was presented to him.
“We hear Mthuli asked how the country’s economy could sustain such a figure and how the money would be raised and at what rate since the compensation must be backdated to 1980.”
The ZPRA veterans agreed they could not continue living poverty and noted that a Bill has to be passed through Parliament that will be inclusive of all veterans of the liberation struggle without exception.
“There are other cadres who went as far as Francistown and Selebi Phikwe in Botswana. They need to be vetted, even those who came into contact with enemy forces and were shot dead. If the late Rhodesian Forces were compensated, why not our very own?
“The Old War Veterans Constitution must be discarded as it deprived most of the ZPRA Cadres. Section 23 of the Constitution and a bit of amendment must now be relied on so as to benefit all deserving veterans. We need to stand up on their feet and defend their position,” Magwizi emphasised.
He added that since this was a new dispensation ZPRA would continuously engage as the new government.
“We need to see the true colours of this ‘ED government,’ which calls itself the ‘new dispensation,’” said the ZIPRA secretary general.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya denied there was a vetting exercise taking place. Mahiya claimed whoever had convened this meeting was fake and had gathered to seek relevance.
“Who are you to ask about war vets? This is all political speculation and there is no story here about figures or Zanla or ZIPRA. According to the nature of vetting, criteria and standard of vetting, we don’t even talk about former freedom fighters in that manner as that is non-existent,” he fumed.
“We don’t say Zanla or ZIPRA, we talk about war vets as a whole. I am not even aware of a vetting exercise that is taking place. Did they identify themselves a war vets? Whoever organised that meeting is unreliable as there is no vetting in progress and such figures are a fabrication.”