War vets mull another indaba with Mugabe
By Farai Mabeza
HARDLY four months after meeting with President Robert Mugabe in what was dubbed as a crisis indaba, veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s war of liberation are considering having another meeting with their patron over their unmet demands.
During the indaba, the war veterans demanded among other things tax exemptions, allocation of 10 percent shares in companies under the ongoing indigenisation drive and the dismissal of ZANU-PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.
But ZANU-PF seems to have, since that crisis meeting, turned its lethal arsenal on the war veterans themselves.
While they were busy demanding the fulfillment of their demands, last week, the ruling party expelled their chairman, Chris Mutsvangwa for indiscipline, a move the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association spokesman, Douglas Mahiya, described as ill-informed.
“For as long as nothing has been done we have no option, but at some point we will request to meet the patron and discuss the outstanding issues,” Mahiya told this paper last week.
“What we are seeing is an absence of seriousness in dealing with the welfare of the war veterans,” he added.
“The indaba issues remain outstanding or I would say remain stagnant. All that happened was payment of school fees for one term and our monthly income remains at US$200 and I think it’s high time an increment is made.”
In May, War Veterans Minister, Tshinga Dube, explained that of the US$6 million allocated by the Ministry of Finance for school fees, US$2 million was used to fund the indaba.
Dube said the US$6 million was for the 2016 first term fees, but was still insufficient for the over 22 500 applicants. Government still owed schools US$23 million in unpaid school fees for children of war veterans for the past three years.
He, however, pointed out that there could be possible abuse of funds, querying the ages of some of the beneficiaries. Some of the collaborators were said to be 40 years old.
“It would mean they were collaborators at the age of three or four years, and if you raise these issues, you are told all kinds of politics,” said Dube.
The April indaba was the first time after independence that there was a major meeting between the former fighters and President Mugabe.
President Mugabe was, however, also confronted by the ex-guerrilla war fighters in August 1997, but did not convene an indaba then.
Then led by the now late Chenjerai Hunzvi, the former war fighters told him they would have him deposed if he refused to give in to their demands.
President Mugabe ate humble pie and ordered the then finance minister, Herbert Murerwa, to give each war veteran a ZW$50 000 one-off payment, which effectively set off the beginning of Zimbabwe’s descent to hyperinflation and economic ruin.
It now seems that their political influence is waning with the President not in a hurry to give in to their latest demands.
The war veterans also used a press conference last week to register their discontent with the government’s inability to come up with an effective economic remedy for the country.
“We have called this press conference to register our concern over the current, social, political and economic issues. We want to urge government to give appropriate solutions to these problems. An effective minister of government should have the capacity to bring about solutions to problems that are aligned to his or her ministry,” said Mahiya.
While in public they pledge their support for the 92-year-old President Mugabe, their diametrically opposed positions in the party’s succession and factional wars makes it hard for anyone to understand where the war veterans stand.
That they don’t want Kasukuwere as the party’s political commissar, yet President Mugabe appointed Kasukuwere to the post and is showing no inclination towards removing him, highlights the complex predicament the ruling party finds itself in.
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