By Jacob Kudzai Mutisi
As Zimbabwe celebrates forty-two years of independence on Monday the 18th of April 2022 it is a tale of unrelenting suffering for the majority of the nation’s liberation heroes and heroines except for the privileged few who were able to squeeze their way into the ranks of the ruling elite never took part in the war to liberate our Great Nation.
In an exclusive interview with Zimbabwe War Veterans Pressure Group chairperson Comrade Amos Kumbulani Sigauke (Vasco) gives a chilling account of the plight of Zimbabwe’s second chimurenga heroes in a no holds barred exchange. Sigauke contends that with a pension emolument of less than the equivalent of usd 100 per month, the gallant fighters have been relegated to a life of poverty and deprivation at a time when health challenges such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other infirmities associated with the onset of old age abound.
The monthly pension emolument falls way below the poverty datum line of usd 600 per month. Efforts by liberation veterans to seek redress after government unilaterally reduced their monthly emolument from usd 2000 per month in 1998 to the current amount of less than usd 100 per month have fallen on deaf ears resulting in
“The majority of our war veterans living below the poverty datum line’ according to Cde Sigauke ‘all this occurring, in stark contrast to decent pensions paid out to their regional counterparts by their governments in Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia and Angola’.
It’s a sad story indeed considering that the Constitution of 2013 has clauses that are supposed to protect the war veterans. The preamble to the Constitution refers to the need for the nation to extol and exalt these brave sons and daughters of the soil.
The Constitution also calls on the nation in Section 3 to hold in high esteem the principles and values of the liberation struggle whilst Section 23 explicitly states that institutions of the state and agencies of government at every level should accord befitting respect, honour and recognition to veterans of the liberation struggle.
On the other hand, Section 84 stipulates the entitlement of war veterans to a decent pension and other benefits which include medical aid. To the contrary, the facts on the ground point to a situation in which there is no conformance with these stipulations of the supreme law of the land.
Sigauke pointed out as an example the harsh treatment of 39 war veterans who were arrested and continue to be harassed by state agencies for assembling in order to merely handover a petition of their plight to the Presidency. It was against such a backdrop that the War Veterans Pressure Group, realizing and cognizant that the collective interests and rights of war veterans are under threat of being rampantly trampled upon by government, that we took the decision to stand-up and challenge such mal-feasance.
The promise of a democratic and progressive developmental state that was the centre-piece of our ideological thrust during the war of liberation has proved elusive. We are worried that instead of delivering a democratic and socially just system our leadership appears to be taking us towards a dictatorship in which the rich and poweful few selfishly and irresponsibly dominate and oppress the majority.
Instead of benefitting the nation as a whole, the abundant natural resources are now a preserve of the few. This situation is typical of the ‘vortex’ in which our liberation struggle icons find themselves. The resultant contradictions for any conscientious cadre are obvious.
How do we defend a system that devours its own and contradicts and runs against the foundational principles and values of our erstwhile struggle for freedom and emancipation? For the comrades who interacted with commander Misihairambwi, his famous promise that we will have enough food when we are back home eating from Munhumutapa hotel, has turned out to be a laughable fallacy.
There is a need for the government of Zimbabwe to immediately start to look at the plight of our freedom fight and give them the lifestyle they deserve similar to those in the region. Why should the nation be celebrating independence yet the freedom fighters themselves are living in poverty.
The Zimbabwean Government should provide the the freedom fighters with free health care, hefty pension and free education for those those with children school in tertiary education.
Long live Zimbabwe and long live freedom fighters. Let us provide them with the life that they deserve.
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