PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has turned to ex-combatants to lead mass mobilisation campaigns as fears of a possible electoral defeat in the 2023 elections send tremors down Zanu PF corridors.
Government on Wednesday announced a number of freebies for the ex-combatants to oil them for what many dread would be a campaign of terror reminiscent of the 2008 re-run horror spearheaded by the former freedom fighters.
“The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association is challenged to scale up mobilisation programmes for the upcoming 2023 election. All party wings have a role to play for the realisation of five million votes. Together we are stronger,” Mnangagwa said on Wednesday ahead of the party’s politburo session.
He said Zanu PF was not leaving anything to chance, saying the party’s election machinery should be sharpened, with structures told to also target first-time voters.
“Most importantly, there must be increased visibility of the party, cell by cell, branch by branch, district by district,” the Zanu PF leader said.
The growing trend by Zanu PF to turn to war veterans for support towards the elections coupled with government freebies has prompted critics to accuse the ruling party of selfishly abusing the former guerrilla war fighters to remain in power.
The ex-combatants themselves have also acted like mercenaries by not hesitating to holding the nation to ransom by perennially demanding compensation.
In 1997, angry war veterans pressured the late former President Robert Mugabe to pay them a $50 000 gratuity each and other benefits for their role in the liberation struggle.
The knee-jerk pay-out sent the Zimbabwe dollar plunging 72% to the United States dollar.
In 2000, the war veterans spearheaded a bloody and chaotic invasion of white-owned commercial farms that led to the fast-track land reform programme which they mostly benefited from.
Since then, the compensation chorus has been perennial and in 2020, they made more demands which included being given honorary degrees, diplomatic passports and automatic promotions in State institutions.
To further appease the war veterans, government recently announced that it would pay gratuities and pensions to a batch of 160 000 war veterans, ex-political prisoners and war collaborators who missed out on the 1997 pay-outs.
In 1989, there were about 34 000 war veterans across the country and the number has kept on increasing, with analysts saying government was creating ghost ex-combatants.
And on Wednesday, government also instructed councils to give special treatment to war veterans, and allocate at least 20% of available land for housing and commercial purposes to the ex-freedom fighters.
Addressing councillors at a workshop in Kwekwe on Wednesday, Local Government and Public Works ministry deputy director Cephas Mudavanhu urged the local authorities to devise policies recognising war veterans.
“They (councils) should assist these war veterans. We should put flexible policies for these people to benefit because most of them are no longer working and they are vulnerable,” Mudavanhu said.
“Another issue, all those war veterans who would have retired should also get incentives so that they can manage to at least open a business for them to survive.
“Councils must also renovate and maintain their houses and offices. So we recommend that we renovate their offices. They should be given special recognition because they made a special contribution.”
He also ordered councils to promote some of the war veterans they employ regardless of their educational qualifications.