'Avail Veterans Pension Fund to all'

HARARE - The War Veterans Pension Fund should be availed to all Zimbabweans because the liberation war was a collective effort and not the preserve for a select few, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said.

Tsvangirai was addressing a group of elderly persons in Harare in a belated commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated worldwide on the 1st of October every year.

“The pensions being paid to war veterans should be availed to everyone. Some went outside the country of course but we all fought didn’t we?” said Tsvangirai, who is often accused of fleeing from the war.

“In our own way we all assisted. You should all benefit because if it were not for the ordinary people the war effort would never have been that successful,” Tsvangirai said.

The pensions paid to veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle have been a major bone of contention with beneficiaries being only those active in the actual fighting.

Tsvangirai said senior citizens were suffering neglect yet many of them were instrumental in helping liberation war fighters.

He said government should provide health care and a living pension to senior citizens.

“I am aware that some even died of stress because their pensions were wiped out during the hyperinflationary era and we do not want to go there again.

“Government has an obligation and the MDC will develop a policy that will cater for our senior citizens,” he said.

“You should be getting stipends at the end of the month. We could have an age limit if not 60 then at least 70 years and provide for their health care and day to day survival,” he said, bemoaning the inadequacy of current government social welfare programmes in assisting the elderly.

“We understand that the government welfare programme is not enough but I think we can do better.

‘‘As we celebrate your day we should have a vision of what we want to leave as a legacy for our children.

“Government must also create platforms at which you can raise your concerns.

‘‘These should help in the formulation of policies that benefit you. We should not just create policies that you do not understand and own,” said Tsvangirai.

Senior citizens at the event said they had never been rewarded or recognised for their contribution to the liberation struggle.

“We are very grateful to you Prime Minister because this is a first since Independence. Now we hear some want to force a clause on War Veterans in the new constitution and we question their sincerity 32 years after independence,” Paul Dengeza said.

On December 14 1990, the United Nations General Assembly (by resolution 45/106) designated October 1 the International Day of Older Persons and last month President Robert Mugabe signed the Older Persons Bill into law.

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