Elita Chikwati and Columbus Mabika
Zimbabweans will today mark the 39th Heroes Day, with Government saying it is moving to repeal laws governing war veterans and ex-political detainees to come up with a consolidated legal framework that recognises all the freedom fighters.
Thousands are expected to converge at various provincial and district centres countrywide to remember and pay respect to the gallant sons and daughters of the soil, both living and departed.
President Mnangagwa will preside at the main commemorations taking place at the National Heroes’ Acre in Harare.
The commemorations are being held under the theme: “Lest We Forget.”
Defence and War Veterans’ Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, speaking ahead of the Heroes and Defence Forces Day commemorations, said promulgation of a single consolidated law was part of Government efforts to improve the welfare of war veterans.
She said President Mnangagwa had instructed the ministry to take corrective measures providing for the recognition of all veterans of the liberation struggle, including non-combatant cadres’ categories.
“Cabinet has approved principles for the repeal of War Veterans Act (Chapter 11:15) and the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act (Chapter 17:10),” she said.
“Efforts are underway for the enactment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill, which, subject to approval by Parliament and His Excellency’s consent, will recognise three categories of veterans of the liberation war.”
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri said it was imperative that Government looked after all the three categories of the former freedom fighters in the liberation struggle who consisted of war veterans as defined in the War Veterans Act, those who assisted in the war consisting of non-combatant cadres and war collaborators and people defined by the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act.
Non-combatant cadres refer to those who had attained the age of 16 by 1979 having crossed any of Zimbabwe’s borders with the intention of participating in the liberation struggle as members of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) or Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra).
“Due to circumstances beyond their control, these people got military training or were not trained, but remained in the temporary refugee camps in other countries until November 29, 1979,” said Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri.
She said provisions were underway to identify and generate resources to finance the welfare of the veterans to be managed by a War Veterans Board appointed last month.
“President Mnangagwa further directed that all ministries with a role in the economy must set aside 20 percent of their activities for the benefit of the veterans,” she said.
“The board will preside over a special purpose vehicle that will run businesses in all sectors of the economy, with a view of augmenting the assistance central Government is already giving to war veterans in the form of pensions, medical aid and school fees for their children.”
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri urged Zimbabweans to celebrate the life of the fallen heroes, saying they sacrificed their lives to bringing the freedoms being enjoyed today.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association secretary-general Cde Victor Matemadanda said Heroes Day commemorations were non-partisan.
“There is no single family in Zimbabwe that does not have a member who participated or perished in the process of liberating the country,” he said.
“Precious lives were lost and should be remembered regardless of political affiliation knowing in our diversity that we have a Zimbabwe we should cherish. People should forget political persuasion, but be persuaded by the Zimbabwe that was founded on piles and piles of dead people who fought to liberate the country.”
Cde Matemadanda said when Zimbabwe was colonised, many submitted in fear of losing their lives.
“It is these sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives to fight the colonial regime until victory in 1980 that we are celebrating and commemorating,” he said.
“We encourage all political party leaders, including those not participating in the national dialogue to come for the commemorations.
“It is important that some parties have started talking about the welfare of the war veterans, which means they see the importance of their contribution in the liberation of the country.”
Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs Oliver Chidawu said all was in place for the commemorations.
“We have deployed 40 buses in the province and people will be picked up from their usual pick-up points,” he said.
“We are ready for the commemorations of the independence we got through fighting for it and now we are concentrating on overcoming economic hardships in line with our national Vision 2030.”