DISGRUNTLED veterans of the 1970s liberation war yesterday accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government of neglecting them, in a development signalling deepening ructions in Zanu-PF.
They also accused the ruling party of abusing them to carry out violent terror campaigns on its behalf and dumping them after elections.
This came after police last week arrested nine of the restive ex-combatants for picketing at Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s offices demanding an upward review of their allowances. They were, however, released without charge following a major outcry.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, chairperson of the War Veterans’ Welfare Pressure Group, Amos Sigauke, said it was baffling that Mnangagwa was reportedly calling for a new indaba with the ex-combatants as if he was not aware of their plight.
“We hear from the media that His Excellency the President wishes to meet us to hear our grievances. We hope this is not another grandstanding sideshow because we have submitted our grievances to his office many times,” he said.
“There is nothing new to tell him, unless of course he will be coming to tell us the answers to our grievances. This grandstanding has to be stopped. They talk of shares in mining and a lot of other projects. They speak from affluent hotels, yet a war veteran on the ground is suffering.”
Sigauke, who was flanked by over 20 war veterans, added that it was surprising that Mnangagwa’s new dispensation had offered them nothing.
He also took a swipe at Defence and War Veterans minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, describing her as reactionary who was not prepared to address their concerns.
“It would go a long way if he, Mngangagwa, would rein in his Minister of Defence and make her withdraw her opposition to get our dues as determined by the court. This would be the least of our expectations. Government has continued to shortchange the war veterans and abandoned them into abject poverty and destitution,” Sigauke said.
He said they were forced to take the matter of their welfare to court, but government was ignoring them and continuously lying about their welfare.
“The court ruled in our favour, but the government has not honoured its obligation to us. Instead, government has made various pronouncements to mislead the people into believing that it has a grand plan for the welfare of the war veterans, yet on the ground, we are getting a pittance of $16 000. This grandstanding has to be exposed for what it really is,” Sigauke added.
The war veterans group, which claims to have severed ties with the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, accused government of lying about adding them as shareholders in various mining claims, yet on the ground, indications were that only a few were benefiting.
He also slammed government for being insincere by establishing an exclusive VVIP hospital at Manyame Air Base for top government and Zanu-PF officials while the rest of medical facilities in the county were in a sorry state.
“Instead, government unashamedly announced the establishment of a VVIP hospital at a time public hospitals are collapsing due to neglect,” Sigauke said.
“Who are these VVIPs who think they deserve this special favour while the generality of the people suffers in silence?”
On events leading to the arrest of the nine war veterans last week, Sigauke said they had for a long time been following up on issues relating to their welfare and their members were invited to the Finance ministry offices to be furnished with a copy of correspondences involving different ministries, only to be waylaid by police officers.
“The police waylaid them and bundled them into a truck. Five others who were waiting outside to see the contents of the letter were also bundled into the truck and the nine were taken to Harare Central Police Station and detained there until they were released at midnight without charge. They were kept in the police cells despite their age and condition,” he said.
Sigauke blasted Mutsvangwa for labelling them MDC Alliance activists.
“We wonder how he has made such astounding allegations and we condemn him in the strongest of terms. We find this utterly disgusting coming from someone who was imposed on us as our chairman. Maybe the burden of too many portfolios has overweighed him. We hope he will retract his statement, otherwise he would have to just shut up. We have nothing to do with political battles and the factional fights in the party. Our concern is our welfare,” he said.
On the use of violence by the war veterans in successive elections, he said: “Allow us to apologise on behalf of the generality of war veterans for the trauma inflicted in the people during past elections in our name. The truth of the matter is that a few of our elements were paid and used to terrify people in our name. We are above partisan politics as we fought to liberate every citizen regardless of their political inclination. The majority of those misguided elements were not liberation war veterans. We fought together with the people and our relationship with them was like fish and water.”- NewsDay