Make us special, say war vets

HARARE - As Zimbabwe commemorates Independence Day in two weeks, veterans of the 1970s liberation war are still wallowing in poverty, a senior representative has said.

While a few well-connected have benefited from President Robert Mugabe’s largesse programmes such as land give aways and the Indigenisation project, the majority have fallen on hard times after blowing the lump sums they received from government in 1997.

Andrew Ndlovu, a war veterans’ leader and chairperson of the Magamba Echimurenga Housing Trust, told the Daily News this week that veterans of the liberation struggle are not being honoured, respected and recognised.

“We really feel we are being neglected as veterans of the liberation struggle. Of importance is the definition of ‘hero’.

Everyone who participated in the liberation struggle — whether by assisting fighters or was detained for political reasons — must enjoy the privilege of hero status.

“For the past 33 years the definition was biased with other veterans of the liberation struggle being marginalised and never regarded as heroes/heroines,” said Ndlovu.

Now the war veterans, who are famous for fiercely backing Mugabe and Zanu PF, are pinning their hopes on a draft constitution which contains an explicit clause regarding their welfare.

“If the draft constitution is adopted as the supreme law of the country, war veterans will be happy as it protects and recognises us.

“Whoever is going to win the forthcoming harmonised elections should recognise us as a special part in the country’s history and future,” Ndlovu said.

The definition of a hero, which is monopolised by Zanu PF, has sparked debate with politicians such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai calling for the revision of the selection process.

Ndlovu said even some people who participated in the liberation war have been denied hero status after their death because they would have severed ties with Zanu PF.

“People like Robert Mlalazi and John Ngwenya must have been accorded hero status.

“As liberators we say the definition of a hero must not be attached to political affiliations,” Ndlovu said.

“We want something which will help us being recognised on national events so that we feel special — it is part of recognition. Some politicians are abusing us by involving liberators in political violence for their benefit. They are not respecting us,” said Ndlovu.

Zimbabwe celebrates its independence from British colonialism on April 18.

Independence, which came in 1980, followed a brutal guerrilla war pitting liberation war fighters such as Ndlovu against a heavily-resourced military defending Ian Smith’s white supremacist government. - Bryn Gumbo

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