MUGABE'S SWORD OF DAMOCLES
Zimbabwe s former freedom fighters are demanding their payments and ask the govenment to look into their welfare after over sixteen years of silence. Meanwhile reports in the press have denounced allegation of thefts by ruling top Zanu-PF officials and ministers from the War Veterans Compensation Fund.
By Never Gadaga - NPafs/1260 words
The man who successfully led the organised protest of Zimbabwe s 50 000 strong former guerrillas a few months ago over the suspension of their wardisability compensation fund, Chenjerai Hunzvi, is at the centre of a row over whether he is a war veteran or a liberation war hero.
The protest erupted after allegations of thefts of more than $2 billion zimbabwean dollars from the fund by ruling top Zanu-PF officials and Ministers. President Mugabe has since put in place a hefty social security package forthe former guerrillas.
The guerrillas fought in the war that led to Zimbabwe s independence under the Zimbabwe People s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) and theZimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla) military wings of the ZimbabweAfrican National Union (Zanu-PF) and the Zimbabwe People s Union (Zapu).
According to reports by a local independent weekly The Financial Gazette, two cabinet ministers in the Mugabe administration have charged that the 54-year old Hunzvi, a medicalpractitioner, is not a war veteran. Political commentators here said government officials want to punish Hunzvi for his remarks during the protest that the party and the government had forgotten them during 17 years in power.
The cabinet ministers who charged that Hunzvi is not a war veteran are former Zapu stalwarts. Zapu fought alongside Zanu during the war.
According to a press statement by former Zapu foreign affairs secretary, Daniel Madzimbamuto, Hunzvi is a genuine party activist who underwent three months military training in Zambia during the war.
The parties led by Robert Mugabe (Zanu) and Joshua Nkomo (Zapu)-united under the Unity Accord of 1987 following civil disturbances shortly after independence in Matabeleland province, a Zapu stronghold.
Former Zipra intelligence supremo and Minister for Home Affairs, Dumiso Dabengwa, said: He (Dr Hunzvi) is in the category of ex-detainees. I don t know who vetted him because he qualifies as a
liberation hero and not as a war veteran.
Local Government Minister, John Nkomo, said Hunzvi worked under him but in a civil service capacity and not as part of the Revolutionary Council that directed ZAPU s war effort from bases in Zambia. Hunzvi countered that he received three months military training in Zambia in 1978 prior to being posted to Warsaw, Poland, as chief representative of the then Zapu.
Compensation fund Mugabe s popularity hit the bottom three months ago when thousands of former guerrillas, most of them pauperised because of unemployment, took to the streets to force the government to pay them their disability pensions.
Mugabe s usual tactics of ignoring popular protest failed in the face of the war veterans angry and persistent demands.
The government had suspended the compensation fund following allegations by the local media that some top Zanu-Pf officials got awards for disabilities ranging between 60 percent and 99 percent, while the majority of ex-combatants went without payment. Ironically all the recipients have been in full time
employment since independence. The war veterans were irked by a lack of employment, housing, education and training opportunities for them since independence, despite the sacrifices they made for the country.
The former guerrillas say the government should have put in place a social welfare policy in favour of tax credits for companies that employ ex-combatants, subsidies for private colleges that enroll former guerrillas for training and a preferential war veterans land allocation programme.
A few months ago, Mugabe agreed to pay the former combatants a lump sum of $50 000 and a monthly payment of $2 000 for life. The disbursements will start in January next year.
Economists are watching closely how and where Mugabe will source the $3,5 billion for the disbursements this fiscal year.
The International Monetary Fund has suspended its Balance of Payments support for Zimbabwe s economic reform programme- now in its second phase- till Mugabe explains how he will find this
The budget deficit is expected to climb from 7,5 percent in the 1996/97 financial year to 12 percent in the current financial year.
Economist Erick Block said the government should relinguish its 25 percent shareholding in parastatals that have been privatised, cut down on unnecessary expenditure and curb corruption in order to generate funds for the ex-combatants pensions and gratuities.
A spate of corruption scandals have rocked Zimbabwe in the past five years. Cabinet ministers and bureaucrats were three years ago implicated in a land grab scandal in which they illegally leased land alienated by the government from white commercial farms for resettlement of landless peasants.
Recently, members of Parliament accused the government of manipulating the tender system in favour of some individuals. A year ago top politicians and civil servants accessed interest-free loans in a housing scheme that was designed for middle income earners by the Ministry of National Housing and Construction.
Block warned that if such a huge pension and gratuity fund is raised through government debt securities, it could further raise the rate of inflation, now pegged at 18 percent per annum. The knock on the effect of inflation would lead to the depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar which is already under
pressure from import demand.
Under the deal, ex-combatants would be re-integrated into the political structures of the ruling Zanu- PF. They were reviously not allowed to participate in politics since their demobilisation in 1980.
Political commentators believe that this policy of exclusion of ex-combatants from active politics was designed to depolitise them. Ex-combatants were perceived as a threat to the Zanu-PF leadership as they were quite articulate with the political aspects of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe and his two geriatric vice-presidents, Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda, are now worried that Hunzvi has built a huge political power base in the country.
Hunzvi is portrayed by some politicians as a potential contender for the leadership of the Zapu faction when Joshua Nkomo Umdala Wethu retires or dies.
The two cabinet ministers who charged that Hunzvi is not a war
veteran, are not good bed fellows either, as they are currently locked in an unpronounced war for the presidency after Joshua Nkomo. Zanu-PF gurus are not comfortable with Hunzvi s new constituency either which to all intents and purposes plays a highly strategic position in political mass mobilisation.
Hunzvi is being seen by Zimbabweans as the new voice of opposition in a country where there is no viable opposition.
Mugabe s risk
Opposition by independent members of parliament is not significant enough to make Zanu-PF change some of its unrepresentative ways of governance.
The opposition movement in Zimbabwe has been stigmatised politically because it is led by former moderate black nationalists like Bishop Abel Muzorewa of United parties and Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole of Zanu-Ndonga.
Both politicians took part in the ill-fated Rhodesian internal settlement of 1978. Memories of Muzorewa, who became co-Prime Minister in the Smith-Muzorewa regime, warning Zanla and Zipra
guerrillas that they would never defeat the Rhodesian Army are still fresh in people s minds.
The Rhodesian Army carried out atrocities on civilians and air raids which killed thousands of Zimbabwe s guerrillas during the war. The internal settlement suited the grand strategy of former Rhodesian rebel leader, Ian Smith, to alienate radical black nationalist leaders like Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo very well.
Mugabe and his cabinet risk alienating themselves by war veterans, if they continue their attempts to discredit Hunzvi.
If Mugabe s ministers succeed in anathematizing him from Zanu-PF, they could have sown the seeds for a new vibrant and viable political party.
The new party would muster instant political credibility, as its nucleus is the majority of ex-combatants who are still bitter with the Zanu-PF leadership for ignoring their plight in the past 16 years.
- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
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