via Govt buckles under war vets’ pressure – DailyNews Live by Chengetai Zvauya 2 FEBRUARY 2014
Government has agreed to look into the welfare of war veterans after they demanded a hike in their pensions.
This comes 16 years after war veterans bullied the government into paying them billions of Zimbabwean dollars in gratuities, which sent the dollar crashing, and the economy on a downward spiral.
Patrick Chinamasa, the Finance minister, told Parliament during debate on the budget last week that government was going to set up a committee made up of war veterans, officials from ministry of Defence and Finance to confirm the correct number of surviving war veterans and their beneficiaries before looking into their welfare.
“I had a meeting with honourable (Zanu PF MP for Buhera South) Joseph Chinotimba, on the issue of the welfare of war veterans, especially on the outstanding school fees of their children,” Chinamasa said.
“The war veterans must know that they are in my heart and I will attend to their issue.
“ I informed Chinotimba of my desire to help them and we have agreed to set up a team from officials from my ministry, Defence and the war veterans so that they can verify their numbers and we can move forward to help them despite the financial challenges we are facing.”
The issue was raised by legislators in the Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services parliamentary portfolio committee chaired by Clifford Sibanda, the Zanu PF MP for Bubi, during post-budget consultations.
Sibanda had a torrid time trying to mollify agitated legislators led by Chinotimba, who argued that government has been neglecting their welfare for a long time.
Chinotimba urged Zanu PF MPs to support his motion because they were also war veterans.
“There are war veterans ministries in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola and why not here in Zimbabwe?” queried Chinotimba.
“We need our own ministry led by people who understand what we went through in the war, and if I show that person injuries and scar marks on my legs that I incurred in the war, he will understand it, not someone who has not fought the war.
“When I am talking about the war veterans issue I am not speaking as a legislator, but as a war veteran.
We have young children who are still going to school and their school fees and hospital fees needs to be paid but there is no money that we are getting from government to support us.”
He continued: “The monthly upkeep, as a pension we are getting is too little and we have been crying out for a long time that we need government to help us but nothing has been happening.
“Our situation was much better in the 1990s when we had a ministry led by the late Witness Mangwende, but now it has changed as we are just a department in the ministry of Defence and no one is looking after us anymore.”
Chinamasa allocated US $18 million to the war veterans as a department in the ministry of Defence, which the legislators claim was too little as the war veterans had asked for $58 million.
The Buhera South legislator got support across the political divide, with legislators Tendai Makunde (Murehwa South), Oliver Mandipika (Buhera West), Lucia Matibenga (Kuwadzana) and Mapetere Mawere
(Zaka west) rallied behind Chinotimba, who lamented that the war veterans were facing destitution.
In the 1990’s a ministry of war veterans was set up by President Robert Mugabe under the late Witness Mangwende, which was responsible for the distribution of the War Victims Compensation Fund, which was later abused by many politicians and war veterans.
The War Victims Compensation Fund was suspended pending an investigation amid reports that high-level government officials and their relatives looted more than Z$112 billion or an equivalent of US $450 million.
Chinotimba said they were asking for a review of their pensions so that they are linked to the poverty datum line, currently pegged at US $540.
Mugabe is patron of the war veterans, who wield immense influence in his ruling party because they are the centrepiece of its electioneering machine, waging violence and terror against the opposition at every election to ensure victory for the party.
The ex-combatants also spearheaded the government’s controversial land reform programme touted by Mugabe as his administration’s best achievement since coming to power in 1980 but blamed by critics for destroying the mainstay agricultural sector and causing food shortages.
Chinotimba said the Z$50 000 they received in 1997 as pension had long been exhausted as they have not received any benefit from the state over the past 15 years.
The veterans of the 70s liberation struggle also demanded mining concessions to improve their welfare.