MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa drew fierce reaction from an angry Defence and War Veterans deputy minister Victor Matemadanda after the youthful politician accused him of enjoying State feather-beddings and joining a rich elite while his constituency of ex-liberation fighters continued to wallow in abject poverty.
Chamisa used a ceremony to welcome war veterans that defected from embattled Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP) to make a political point that Matemadanda was now living a good life, while other war veterans are suffering, reclining in the lap of luxury of the featherbeddings he is enjoying while in a position of influence as deputy minister, an assertion that has riled the deputy minister who feels he was unfairly bad-mouthed.
Among the large contingent of war veterans from NPP welcomed by Chamisa at the MDC headquarters was ex-Zanu PF member and former minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, who joined the MDC Alliance.
Chamisa said: “Kwete zvinoitwa neZanu PF zvekuti vashoma ndivo vanodya vachiguta. Ma war veterans anodiwa kana paitwa huyanga, varutsa, vozoshandiswa sechikorobho asi kana pavapakudya vonzi munotaurisa, hamuna ma table manners.
“Iyezvino Matemadanda akazorwa nhopi pamuromo, avakutoti zvinhu zvanaka, asi (Douglas) Mahiya kana donhwe zvaro renhopi. (We do not do what they do in Zanu PF, where war veterans are used and dumped. Matemadanda was placated with a ministerial post, and now believes everything is OK, yet his colleague Mahiya was not rewarded with anything),” Chamisa said, tongue-in-cheek.
Former combatants often complain that they are neglected, sidelined from assuming senior posts in government, and say despite their lifetime commitment, have failed to pursue opportunities to make their lives somewhat whole again.
But government funds school fees and provides funeral cover for veterans, whose current monthly pension and allowance comes to around $200.
Outraged Matemadanda came out swinging, accusing the opposition leader of desperately seeking attention by mentioning “real war veterans” like him. A fuming Matemadanda rejected Chamisa’s characterisation of Mavhaire as a war veteran.
“It’s naive for a person who has hopes to lead this country to think that any person, who once belonged to Zanu PF (Mavhaire), is a war veteran. This is a clear sign of desperation,” Matemadanda fumed in an unsolicited statement.
He claimed Chamisa was a son of a Rhodesian African Rifles soldier, and did not know the definition of a war veteran. Chamisa was born to Alice and Sylvanus Chamisa on February 2, 1978, at Silveira Mission in Fort Victoria, now Masvingo.
“May he respectfully be told that if Mavhaire is a war veteran, then he is the class of Chamisa’s father, a Rhodesian war veteran, and not the veteran of the liberation struggle,” Matemadanda said.
“If Chamisa lives in Zimbabwe, he should know that (Douglas) Mahiya is my deputy in the politburo and that he is full time secretary in my department.
“Headman Moyo is a director in the same department. In fact, the department has several war veterans. We are not like him who is only concerned about himself,” he said.
After receiving the NPP war veterans, Chamisa said the MDC Alliance wanted to go back to the nationalist ethos.
“So, we are going to amend our constitution to create a wing for our war veterans,” Chamisa said.
“We are not like Zanu PF that wants to only use them and dump them. We want to fuse them into the party. We will also not waste talent by relegating the likes of Mavhaire to the periphery. We will accommodate you at the top because you are our hero. I grew up admiring you especially when your first called for Mugabe to go. That was courage because he was dangerous, you could have been killed,” he said.
Matemadanda showered praises on President Emmerson Mnangagwa, claiming he has already done a lot to improve the lot of war veterans.
Matemadanda said war veterans across the country were recently given party cars to use in running their department, which is a clear sign that the government is committed to improving their lives.