War vets eye diamonds money

HARARE - Veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war have set their sights on the contentious diamond money, 15 years after they arm-twisted President Robert Mugabe into a payout that precipitated a national economic meltdown.

Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary for projects Andrew Ndlovu told the Daily News that former combatants wanted government to set aside a chunk of diamonds money for them.

“We are not asking them to pay us from their pockets. They do not have money but this country is rich and we are making lots of money from the sale of diamonds. They should pay us from that,” Ndlovu said in comments showing the extent of the clamour for diamonds money from pro-Zanu PF groups.

Ndlovu accused the state of infiltrating the liberation fighters’ ranks to weaken their resolve and demands.

“We were infiltrated because some within the establishment felt threatened by our unity. We wanted the late Chenjerai Hunzvi to be minister responsible for war veterans but after we chased away Witness Mangwende (then War Veterans minister), the President never appointed anyone,” said Ndlovu.

“We were then transferred to the Defence ministry as a department and that has weakened us.

“The reasons given were that we were and are still too divided,” said Ndlovu, showing frustration with the government.

“War veterans were promised annual payouts after the initial ZW$50 000 but that never happened.

“The government embarked on a sinister plot to destabilise us and brought disunity. Now you see, we have various groups led by opportunists masquerading as saviours of suffering war veterans,” he said.

Asked if the commitments by government were on paper, Ndlovu said: “In the military one never asks their commander for minutes of a meeting or a written agreement. It will show lack of trust and that is never tolerated. You can die for that kind of behaviour. Everything that happened then was recorded and we had no reason to think our leaders would not honour it,” said Ndlovu.

War veterans are viewed by many suffering Zimbabweans as an ungrateful lot, particularly after receiving huge payouts in 1997 and getting farms under the often violent land reform programme spearheaded by Hunzvi, a “medical doctor” turned land invasions leader.

The 1997 gratuity payouts represented a rare capitulation to pressure Mugabe and, since they were not budgeted for, came at a huge cost to the country’s economy.

Analysts blame the payments for what came to be known as the “Black Friday” of November 14, 1997, when the Zimbabwe dollar crashed and lost nearly half its value in a single day.

The stock market was also hit, losing about 46 percent of its value as investors scrambled for cover.

Ndlovu said former fighters who have been harassing Finance minister Tendai Biti for their “lack of welfare”, are knocking on the wrong door.

“In as much as Biti is a Cabinet minister he does not make a decision.

“He cannot pay us on his own, he gets direction from a collective Cabinet and we want the government and in particular those who lead it, to do something now,” he said.

Biti has consistently urged the former fighters to confront Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Zanu PF, whom he accuses of running a separate government outside the coalition authority through diamonds money siphoned from Marange.

Mpofu and government have repeatedly dismissed the allegations as baseless.

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