Former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) veterans will appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services, Monday, to present their objections to the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act that was signed into law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September.
The Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act seeks to provide rights and benefits to veterans of the liberation struggle and their dependents.
But when the act was enacted into law, the veterans accused the government of deliberately omitting some of their contributions, as they discovered there were a lot of missing gaps and some of the issues that sailed through the Senate were excluded in the final document.
This prompted the former freedom fighters to petition parliament to amend the act such that it was all inclusive.
In an interview with CITE, ZPRA Veterans Association, Secretary-General, Petros Sibanda, confirmed they were invited to Parliament to discuss the petition.
Sibanda noted another pressing issue was the exclusion of countries where ZPRA fighters were stationed, as that was a big blow to the fighters who trained in various countries and would be disadvantaged once vetting resumed.
The Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act had only listed two countries – Zambia and Mozambique as the only training camps, leaving out a number of countries where ZPRA fighters were based was such as Angola, Botswana, Russia, Tanzania, Algeria, Egypt, Cuba, Yugoslavia, Romania, Cyprus among others.
“Our mother party -ZAPU – was a government in exile, which had many friends in many different countries in the world where most of our comrades trained. Our ZAPU government loved to volunteer in assisting to train people in different fields so that when they came back home were not found wanting. We had intelligent leadership in ZAPU who didn’t want to import labour but most of those people were excluded in the 1997 vetting exercise as they were stationed in different countries,” said the secretary-general.
“A country like Botswana, which was excluded from the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act was the reservoir or the main entrance point for everyone who crossed the border to fight. Botswana had three camps then fighters would proceed to other countries from there, for example go to Mozambique, Algeria, Zambia, generally they went to different countries in Africa and Europe.”
He added that the ZPRA veterans were at least grateful that action was being taken by Parliament to make sure their concerns were addressed.
“That must be rectified so that people are going to be vetted. That is our main concern because ZPRA fighters must be recognised for their sacrificial part they took to liberate this country. We don’t want a bill that is segregatory but it must be all inclusive for all those who deserve to be honoured. We are therefore geared to interact to make sure everyone eligible is considered,” Sibanda said.
Another factor the ZPRA veterans hoped to discuss was how the dependents of their late comrades would be recognised.
“Most of the comrades we fought with are now late and this is an issue we are going to tackle as well. Some comrades passed away when we came back home but we have a register of their names but the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act is silent on that, so we must come up with a way forward,” said the ZPRA veterans association’s secretary-general