Government has in the past two school terms failed to remit school fees for children of the country’s former liberation war fighters.
Some of the former guerrilla fighters who fought in the bush war that brought majority rule 35 years ago said they have been plunged into debt because treasury has failed not only to provide for the school fees for their children, but also their monthly stipends.
“Government has not paid schools fees for our children since third term of last year and we are in the second term of 2015. It is difficult for some of us who are not employed and that is the majority of the comrades,” said one war veteran on condition of anonymity.
“We have been forced to borrow from a company [name supplied] that is owned by senior military officials as well as a known cabinet minister [name withheld]. They are charging us so much interest that at the end of the day even when government eventually gives us what is due to us, many will remain in debt.”
Minister responsible for war veterans, Christopher Mutsvangwa, who doubles as the national chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, confirmed his constituents were deep in debt.
“We understand there has been a deliberate plot to push comrades into indebtedness through the administration or maladministration of their pensions and allowances,” Mutsvangwa said.
“I am aware of that and investigating. I am also aware that some senior staffers even in my ministry have been implicated, but as minister, I cannot take information on the face of it, hence the investigation.”
He added: “We are also negotiating with the Ministry of Finance to make sure the allowances are paid. It is true, government has not been able to pay and that has made the situation worse. Now that I have a secretariat at the ministry, we will be able to sit down with bureaucrats at Treasury to find a way forward.”
Recently the Office of the President announced the appointment of a former senior intelligence official and retired brigadier-general Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi to Mutsvangwa’s ministry, alongside Major General Richard Ruwodo, Brigadier General James Jotham Murozvi and Brigadier General Chancellor Diye as principal directors.
Former war veterans chairperson Jabulani Sibanda said the withholding of pensions and allowances as well as the “extortionate” interests charged on borrowing by the military top brass had left thousands in penury.
“Members and even my former executive raised questions around the micro-finance institution and its ownership but we got no answers. There is a strong feeling among war veterans that they are being fleeced because in some instances the whole pension package has been diverted,” said Sibanda.
“Our members are now drowning in debt because they have to continuously borrow from the same people who are the source of their misery.”
Contacted for comment, Tapfumaneyi said he was not aware of the existence of the micro-finance company.
“I am hearing it from you. I have no idea of its existence,” said Tapfumaneyi.
In the 1990s Mugabe set up a war veterans ministry under the late Witness Mangwende which was responsible for the distribution of the War Victims Compensation Fund. The fund was later looted by politicians and war veterans, including senior figures in the government with some claiming as much as 120% disability compensation.
The War Victims Compensation Fund was suspended pending investigation amid reports high-level government officials and their relatives looted more than Z$112 billion or an equivalent of $450 million at the time.