'$1 billion for war veterans'

HARARE - Zimbabwean war veterans — often seen as rowdy and President Robert Mugabe’s shock troopers in any election — have demanded $1 billion in fresh gratuities and diamond mining claims in Marange, it emerged yesterday.

In a shock appeal before Parliament’s Defence and Home Affairs committee on Monday, the ex-combatants’ representatives Shadreck Makombe and retired major-general Richard Ruwodo said their 50 000-strong members wanted $20 000 each, and gem mining concessions in the east.

“We are now a laughing stock in society as everyone is looking down upon us. We are not getting the recognition we deserve for liberating this country...,” said Makombe, adding the Z$50 000 packages they received in 1997 had been exhausted and were now living like paupers.

While the “black October” hand-outs are believed to have triggered the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy, the latest demand for diamond mining concessions also come as active members of the uniformed forces have been handed similar concessions in Chiadzwa.

To this end, Ruwodo said they were seeking an urgent meeting with the octogenarian leader – their patron – to push for their benefits sine they have not “received anything from the State for 15 years”.

The appeal to Mugabe was also motivated by the fact that their efforts were being frustrated by a number of senior government officials, he said.

“We worked on a national project for the past 10 months to sustain ourselves, with all the paperwork… being approved by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. However, when we got to the Ministry of Mines… everything collapsed as there is too much politics,” Ruwodo told the committee yesterday.

“This is why we are knocking on many people’s doors, including you the legislators (and) we are looking for help to access the president,” he added.

At the meeting – also attended by Defence secretary Martin Rushwaya, Basten Beta and Lazarus Ncube – the liberation war fighters also said they were not benefitting from Zanu PF’s indigenisation programme.

The war veterans’ demands also come as chiefs – seen as quite central to Zanu PF’s re-election campaigns – have made almost similar demands for outrageous benefits at a time Treasury is bankrupt.

However, the timing is also curious as the country hurtles towards a watershed election.

In their view, though, the 1970s fighters say they are justified as their claims are in line with global trends and where war heroes were “feted” like kings, and in their belief the Marange diamonds would do just that.

Paul Madzore, a Movement for Democratic Change MP and the committee’s chair, had to quell tempers at the highly-charged meeting and where the ex-liberation fighters also expressed dissatisfaction over their treatment since independence in 1980.

At the meeting, the group also demanded a review of their monthly $165 allowances, which they said was insufficient given that poverty line was $500-plus.

The war veterans also blasted Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s Treasury for failing to look after their families, especially their children’s school fees, medical needs, money for income-generating projects and reburials of their deceased.

“We got $18 million as budget funds out of a request for $58 million… and the money was not provided,” Ruwodo said.

“Most of our members are suffering as they are not able to fend for themselves and their families. These benefits are not privileges, but our rights,” he said, adding the state had an obligation to look after them.

With Zimbabwe’s war veterans treated as a reserve force under Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Defence ministry, the bunch yesterday hinted at a separation and the formation of their own ministry in line with regional trends or countries like Namibia.

Comments (3)

These aren't warvets! Most of them were too young to have fought in the war. Why dont they ask their masters like Ngwenya for the money, he has more stolen wealth than anyone else. These people just want handouts and aren't prepared to work for a living like the rest of us.

toerag - 19 February 2013

A war vet got gratuity and misused it. He gets monthly pension/allowance of $165. He got a farm which is lying idle. These people are getting school fees refund even for fake college receipts produced. Gentlemen, lets be reasonable. Lets appreciate. Our president has done a lot for you guys but you do not appreciate. You want to give a picture that The President and ZANU PF have abandoned you. I say $165 is a lot for someone who is working somewhere else and got a farm. Some of us did not get these farms but we wanted them. The farm only is enough for what you fought for. You fought for land not $.

Tanetswa - 20 February 2013

A war vet got gratuity and misused it. He gets monthly pension/allowance of $165. He got a farm which is lying idle. These people are getting school fees refund even for fake college receipts produced. Gentlemen, lets be reasonable. Lets appreciate. Our president has done a lot for you guys but you do not appreciate. You want to give a picture that The President and ZANU PF have abandoned you. I say $165 is a lot for someone who is working somewhere else and got a farm. Some of us did not get these farms but we wanted them. The farm only is enough for what you fought for. You fought for land not $.

Tanetswa - 20 February 2013

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