By Kenneth Matimaire
Mutare, November 18, 2016 – GOVERNMENT has admitted diverting over $2,4 million meant for war veterans children’s school fees to fund the meeting which President Robert Mugabe had with war veterans earlier this year.
Despite promises to repay the money, government is yet to honour the pledge, creating further financial headaches for the country’s former liberators.
It has also emerged that government owes fallen heroes under the Roll of Honour scheme over $21 million in unpaid funeral assistance fees over the past decades, a senior government official has said.
Ministry of War Veterans permanent secretary, Retired Brigadier General Walter Tapfumaneyi said government has not been paying $300 entitled to each fallen war veteran enlisted under the scheme.
Names of war veterans entitled to receive the funeral grant were initially published in 1993.
Tapfumaneyi said the money now runs into an accumulating debt of $21 million which has been assumed by the one year old War Veterans Ministry.
“We allocate US$800 for funeral assistance to members we are in a position to help,” he said.
“As a ministry, we pay $500 and the $300 comes via the Office of the President. So unfortunately, government has not been in a position to pay the $300, which has accumulated into $21 million, a debt that we have inherited as a ministry. This money is owed to fallen heroes and should be cleared if funds permit.
“The beneficiaries of this scheme are comrades under the Roll of Honour. I think you remember the book (with names) was published back in 1983, there about.”
Tapfumaneyi said the cash strapped ministry also inherited another debt in school fees arrears of war veterans’ children amounting to $22 million.
The arrears are dated back to the third term of 2013.
The debt was finally cleared after the ministry received 7 percent of its $301 million budget.
However, Tapfumaneyi said they are still saddled with school fees arrears for this year.
“Last year, we set a budget of US$301 million, which was to clear the debts that we inherited, introduce biometric identity cards for our membership, upgrade our data base system among other pertinent issues. But we only received 7 percent of what we asked for, which was US$22 million. We used it to clear school fees arrears from the third term of 2013.
“So we can’t do anything as a Ministry. At one point we went for three weeks with only US$30 in our account before government went on to release the US$3 million that was said to be a bribe from government yet it was meant for your children’s school fees,” he added.
Tapfumaneyi went on to reveal that they diverted $2,4 million meant for school fees to fund their meeting with President Robert Mugabe in April, this year.
The money was meant to clear school fees arrears for the first term of this year.
“We have paid school fees for part of first term. We paid for some of you but did not for others. Those who have not been covered are under what we call batch three. Our arrears (for the first term of 2016) are over US$2,4 million because we used the money to have our meeting with President Mugabe after we had been cleared by Treasury. They said they will pay us back the money soon after the meeting but we haven’t received anything. I have the letter to prove this with me,” he said.
Tapfumaneyi also indicated that they have not paid anything for the second and third term fees.
He said Treasury wrote a letter committing to release $6,4 million for second term fees, which again has not yet been disbursed.
He lamented that lack of financial support from government has weakened the ministry, which is struggling to support the welfare of war veterans.
There are 34 093 war veterans, 200 000 war collaborators, 100 nationalists, 6 000 ex-detainees and 20 000 non-combatant cadres.
Government records indicate that they have 23 000 war veterans’ children and 189 children of ex-detainees under their care. But government has been unable to support both the children and their parents who participated in the war.