WAR veterans have cornered President Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding that he approves “commensurate benefits”, including loan guarantees and rebates for duty-free car imports before they could back his re-election bid for the 2023 general elections.
The ruling Zanu PF party recently formed a new wing, the war veterans’ league, to strengthen and broaden its campaign strategies ahead of the polls.
A Zanu PF central committee report tabled at the party’s elective congress last month revealed that war veterans were demanding more benefits, including loan guarantees at financial institutions in order to incentivise them to drum up support for the ruling party.
“Consideration should be made to award commensurate benefits to vetted members of Zimbabwe Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Association (ZEPPDRA), war collaborators and war veterans cadres to avoid disgruntlement ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections,” the report read in part.
A few months ago, government said 160 000 war collaborators had been successfully vetted and were now eligible to receive their payouts after missing out on the 1997 first round of disbursements.
The report added: “That the veterans pensions should not be static but should be pegged as an equivalent of a salary scale in the civil service so that the government does not have to constantly review the amounts.
“Government should honour its promises and debts, as well as enforce its own rights against the war veterans and their dependants amicably without resorting to litigation.
“Pension should not be reduced upon the death of the member in order to cater for the surviving spouse and dependants.”
The ex-combatants said a facility should be introduced to allow them to import motor vehicles duty-free.
“Facilitation should be made for war veterans to have ease of access to affordable capital finance from the banking institutions whereby the government should be called upon to offer guarantees in instances where the much-demanded collateral is not available.
“The party should engage the government for the establishment of the War Veterans Bank as part of the economic empowerment agenda.
“The party engages the government in order to establish a quota for war veterans in mining and to facilitate access to capital and machinery.
The report added: “The party directs the government to accord qualified children of war veterans opportunities to access employment and other empowerment facilities in recognition of the crucial role and sacrifices made by their parents.”
War veterans have in the past been used as Zanu PF storm troopers —perpetrating violence and killing perceived opposition supporters with the police turning a blind eye during election campaigns.
In 1997, thousands of former freedom fighters were given a lump sum of $50 000 each after they protested against lack of pensions. This led to a spectacular collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Analysts yesterday dismissed the war veterans’ demands as extortionist and illegal.
“The demand by war veterans is extortionate and reflects what the ruling party politics has become. It’s completely unacceptable that they want to be paid from State coffers for the support they give to the ruling party. This constitutes a corrupt and unconstitutional conflation of the State and the ruling party,” political commentator Effie Ncube said.
Another analyst Methuseli Moyo said: “Continuing to demand more is like seeking to hold the President and country hostage and must stop at some point.”
Analyst Vivid Gwede added: “The war veterans like everyone else are suffering from the effects of Zanu PF rule . . . they must join other Zimbabweans and demand something bigger and meaningful, which will result in real political change.”