WAR veterans are demanding allowances above the poverty datum line (PDL), which currently stands at around $500, nearly two decades after they were given Z$50 000 in gratuities each by President Robert Mugabe’s government after embarking on a series of protests in 1997 and later demanding fresh payouts of $18 000 each from the cash strapped government.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) secretary-general Victor Matemadanda told a local radio station this week that the ex-freedom fighters were, however, cognisant of the country’s precarious financial position.
“We were paid a gratuity already unless if you say an increment. The war veteran that was there in 1980 is not the war veteran you are talking to today,” he said.
“We know the country’s financial position and will not make unnecessary demands. We would want to have an allowance that is at least on the poverty datum line or above, because what we have is far below, but we understand that the current situation may not allow for an adjustment.”
He added: “But should the situation improve, yes, we would want to see that allowance increased to a reasonable level. We have war veterans who are disabled and cannot fend for themselves. However, we will not be blind to the prevailing economic conditions in as much as we might want these things”.
In Bulawayo, War Veterans ministry secretary Walter Tapfumaneyi told participants at a Centre for Applied Legal Resources-organised workshop on re-alignment of laws that the department’s “coffers are dry”.
Tapfumaneyi said lack of funding had resulted in programmes such as the on-going vetting process of war collaborators being hampered.
“The ministry’s coffers are dry and are absolutely not in relationship with our plan for the year ahead. We are expected to perform as a ministry and if we do not, then we can be sent to the village, but we can only perform when we have resources. At the moment, war veterans are suffering. If you go to the street and see a person who is suffering, it’s a war vet, but the State is unable to take care of us,” he said.
“We are saying that we want mining claims or land as our benefits, but what we see in practice is different. We talk to the ministers daily on this,” he said, adding the War Vets ministry required no less than $300 million for its programmes.
Tapfumaneyi said Zimbabwe has at least 34 053 former fighters, who have 33 441 children requiring school fees as well as about 9 558 widows “bringing the total number of beneficiaries under the allocation of War Veterans Fund to 77 052”.
He added that an estimated 200 000 war collaborators were set to be vetted with 47 000 widows and 400 000 children.
Treasury, according to Tapfumaneyi, recently released $6 million towards war veterans’ children school fees, but said this was “only 7% of the budget”.
President Robert Mugabe’s government doled out unbudgeted millions at the turn of the century as gratuities to the former fighters, that critics argue led to the current economic mess.