War veterans demo politically-motivated: Biti

HARARE - Finance minister Tendai Biti has said the picket by war veterans at his offices was  politically motivated and said he will not be distracted in performing his national duty.

He said the latest demonstrations, the 12th this year, was aimed at scoring cheap political goals.

Biti told a news conference on Wednesday that it was unfortunate that the ministries of Finance, Justice, Legal Affairs, Higher and Tertiary Education and the Economic Planning and Investment Promotion have been affected as government employees were unable to discharge their duties as all entrances were barricaded by war veterans.

“This is the most critical period for my ministry and it is regrettable that our work is being disrupted,” Biti said.

“As from 1 October, we were supposed to start this budget consultations but we are unable to do so due to these insurrections.”

He castigated the police for failing to provide security for hundreds of civil servants who were locked inside their offices by the war veterans till late into the night.

“It is not fair more so, for civil servants who have to fight their way out of the offices. Pregnant employees were not spared and some had to fork out money from their hard earned salaries to pay for taxis home as they missed government buses. It is unfortunate that war veterans can invade government offices.
This represents the highest low point in the lifespan of the Global Political Agreement.”

“If it is a political fight, use politicians not civil servants,” saidBiti, vowing he will never resign as Finance minister. Up to this afternoon, the war veterans had not yet made any indications of meeting with the minister.

“I have never refused to see them and actually the last time I met them they had 11 demands that they wanted me to address.”

The demands among other issues were; the welfare of the war veterans, purchase of vehicles for chiefs, awarding a minimum living allowance for the war veterans, concerns over the disbanding of Zanu PF’s district coordinating committees (DCCs), disunity in the inclusive government, abuse of war veterans by Zanu PF, accountability over diamond proceeds and the widening gap between the rich and poor.

Minister Biti said on the welfare of the war veterans, his ministry had disbursed US$6,2 million for paying school fees for their children and funeral allowances. On vehicles for chiefs, the ministry was liaising with the ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development to see how best the chiefs can get new vehicles.

“However, I cannot discuss with them the disbanding of DCCs because I am not a Zanu PF member. On the increase of allowances, I cannot do anything as there is the War Veterans’ Act, which stipulates how much they should be paid. For the Act to be changed it must first go through Cabinet and I cannot do it alone,” said Minister Biti.

On the non-remittance of diamond proceeds to the Treasury, the minister in his last meeting with the war veterans informed them that they should approach Obert Mpofu, the minister of Mines and Mining
Development as he was responsible with what was happening in Chiadzwa.

“There is no super minister in government who can change laws. Laws have to be changed by Parliament and Cabinet. These attacks are political and also meant to emasculate the person of the minister and are a breach of the GPA,” said Biti. - Weekend Post

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