By Nyembezi Khumalo
Bulawayo, August 13, 2013 – Zimbabwe on Monday celebrated Heroes Day but to thousands of not so well-connected war veterans, the day commemorated annually is a painful reminder of a tale of false promises as they sink deeper into poverty with monthly allowances only enough to purchase a pair of shoes.
President Robert Mugabe always talks of the important role played by war veterans during the liberation battle – but only a few connected ones have benefited from the government largesse as thousands have to make do with $130 monthly allowances.
“It is only a few members of the Zanu PF patronage system that are benefiting with their families,” Baster Magwizi, the spokesperson of the ZIPRA Veterans Trust told Radio VOP.
“It is unfortunate that after having toiled and suffered so much war veterans are wallowing in abject poverty because the government that they put into power is not looking after them,” he added.
Families of liberation war fighters remain languishing in poverty and live on a paltry $130 monthly allowance while Mugabe and those serving under his government enjoy elite lives.
Magwizi said government should look into war veterans’ welfare to prevent an uprising from angry ex-combatants. In 1997, war veterans pressured Mugabe to pay them ZW$50 000 gratuities and other benefits for their role in the liberation struggle.
According to Magwizi, the government, after the attainment of independence in 1980, was supposed to assist them to better their lives and be self-sufficient after spending years in the bush fighting a guerrilla war.
“At ceasefire, the war veterans who had successfully played their part during the liberation war were not integrated into their communities and assisted with tools for survival as per requirements of the United Nations. That did not happen. We were thrown away like useless logs,” Magwizi indicated.
In July, some war veterans took their protest against government neglect by camping at a farm on the outskirts of Harare demanding compensation from government for participating in the liberation war. During most of the tenure of the outgoing coalition government, war veterans made it a pastime to stage protests at outgoing Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s offices demanding a review of their allowances.
Despite the suffering, Magwizi said the Heroes Day is an important day for war veterans.
“We fought the war and we dislodged a system that was oppressive and we came back home being heroes of the liberation struggle. Indeed, the Heroes Day is very important and a significant day in our lives as war veterans,” he added.