The Sunday News
THE Second Republic as per the provisions of the country’s constitution has continued to cater for the welfare of liberation heroes with an array of economic empowerment programmes and social safety nets.
Chapter two of the constitution of Zimbabwe deals with national objectives and Section 23 zeroes on veterans of the liberation struggle. “The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must accord due respect, honour and recognition to veterans of the liberation struggle, that is to say- a. those who fought in the War of Liberation; b. those who assisted the fighters in the War of Liberation; and c. those who were imprisoned, detained or restricted for political reasons during the liberation struggle.
2. The State must take reasonable measures, including legislative measures, for the welfare and economic empowerment of veterans of the liberation struggle.”
Pursuant to that, the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs has implemented a number of programmes meant to better the lives of people who fought for the country’s freedom. The safety nets availed to them also cover their immediate families.
After sentiments were recently raised in various media platforms to the effect that the government was neglecting the welfare of veterans of the liberation struggle, the Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Cde Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, last week gave a ministerial statement in parliament where she dismissed the notion as false, and went further to explain a number of programmes being implemented by government to ensure a better life for the war veterans and their families.
“The Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs has noted with great concern, messages and information circulating on various media platforms alleging that government and to be more specific, that the Second Republic is neglecting the welfare of veterans of the liberation struggle. This has prompted my Ministry to set the record straight through this Ministerial Statement.
The Ministry of Defence and War Veterans is responsible for the administration of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle, Heroes dependents and War Victims compensation and would like to take this opportunity to advise the nation of arrangements in place for Veterans of the Liberation Struggle’s welfare,” said Minister Muchinguri Kashiri.
The Minister said prior to the process of aligning laws to the constitution, War Veterans and Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees were administered by two separate pieces of legislation: namely, the War Veterans Act (Chapter 11:15) and the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act (Chapter 17:10) and relevant statutory instruments.
These Acts have since been repealed and replaced by the all-encompassing Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act (Chapter 17:12) of 2020 which recognises all the four categories of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle as provided for in the Constitution namely; War Veterans, Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees, Non-Combatant Cadres, and War Collaborators.
“The intention of the Second Republic in aligning the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act (Chapter 17:20) to the constitution was for the government to create a holistic framework for dealing with the welfare and economic empowerment of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle.
Through this Act, including the repealed pieces of legislation, existing War Veterans and Ex-Detainees remain entitled to a monthly pension. Veterans and their children are also entitled to education benefits at government schools or educational institutions and in the event of them or their children attending school at non-government institutions, they are entitled to educational benefits that are equal in amount to the fees payable at government schools or institutions.
In addition, veterans, their spouses and children are entitled to full medical cover in the event of illness. In the unfortunate occurrence of death, families of deceased Veterans are entitled to funeral grants. Finally, veterans of the Liberation Struggle are also entitled to 20 percent of land gazetted for resettlement,” she said.
In addition, all liberation fighters covered under various categories are also entitled to monthly pensions.
“The monthly pension for War Veterans is based on the indexation framework that was improved by the Second Republic to ensure that whatever salaries and allowances of members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are adjusted, the monthly pension for War Veterans is automatically increased. Previously, the indexation was based on salaries alone. As for Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees, their monthly pensions have always been pegged to salaries of members of the civil service such that whenever salaries of civil servants are adjusted, their pensions are also increased.
Now that we have one piece of legislation, engagements with treasury for a similar indexing arrangement to that of War Veterans are ongoing so that we reduce disparities in the pensions of these two categories.
“ Madam Speaker, on the educational benefits, the Ministry pays education benefits to veterans of the liberation struggle and their children studying both locally and abroad. The number of veterans seeking education benefits has declined over the years. In the main, benefits are paid for their children. In the year 2018: 15 340 students benefitted locally, whilst 229 benefitted abroad giving us a total of 15 569.
In the year 2019: 18 411 children benefitted locally, whilst 221 benefitted abroad, giving us a total of 18 632. In the year 2020: 14 737 children benefitted locally, whilst 191 benefitted abroad, giving us a total of 14 928. This year, only 8 994 benefitted locally, whilst only 99 benefitted abroad, giving us a total of 9 093. Currently, the Ministry is in the process of finalising payment of invoiced amounts for the first term of 2021.”
The Minister added that government in 2018, paid for 799 members to get medical attention, in 2019, 1085 veterans benefitted, in 2020, 3020 veterans benefitted and in 2021, 612 have so far benefitted. While government deals with government health institutions, there have been some instances where some members have been referred for specialist treatment outside the country, with government also providing financial assistance. In the event of death, government also covers funeral costs. In addition, those injured are also provided with artificial limbs, with payments in relation to the degree of injuries suffered during the war of liberation.
So as to economically empower veterans of the liberation struggle, 20 percent entitlement to land is now a legal provision in terms of Section 21 of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act (Chapter 17:12). A substantial number of veterans have benefited from the Land Reform Programme since its inception although some are still to benefit.
“It is important to note that veterans are represented in the Lands Committees throughout the country where they are able to influence land allocations. Empowerment is also being delivered through implementation of the 20 percent quota policy. In terms of this policy issued by the Office of the President and Cabinet on 28 November, 2018, at least 20 percent of all economic empowerment projects undertaken by government should be reserved for veterans of the liberation struggle.”
In addition, the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Fund, a vehicle meant to champion economic benefits to members, has been given a number of assets by government that include land in National Parks, and space will be allocated in the yet to be gazetted Tugwi-Mukosi Recreational Park for the development of accommodation facilities and other tourism activities. There is also a business venture at Cable Car Chimanimani National Park and Kyle Recreational Park. Plans are underway to give a permit to conduct cage fish culture on the waters of Lake Kariba.
The minister noted that the appointment of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board was meant to add impetus to ongoing efforts to improve the welfare and economic empowerment of veterans of the liberation struggle. The board was appointed by President Mnangagwa in April.
The board is working on operationalising economic empowerment programmes through a holding company, the Veterans Investment Corporation. The holding company will have subsidiaries that will hold and manage assets in tourism, mining, agriculture and health. The subsidiary in the health sector will establish a range of private hospitals and medical facilities for the war veterans. There will also be a banking institution for veterans, Minister Muchinguri Kashiri said.
She added that pursuant to the enactment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act (Chapter 17:12), noncombatant cadres and war collaborators are now recognised as veterans of the liberation struggle in line with the constitution. However, the veterans will be vetted in order to ascertain their credentials before any benefits are considered. The registration exercise has since been completed and data compilation is underway in preparation for vetting.
“A total of 205 753 applicants registered, which constitutes about 80 percent of our original estimates. The numbers are as follows: Non-Combatant Cadres, 14 246; War Collaborators, 188 379; War Veterans, 1 062; Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees 2 066. Non-Combatant Cadres and War Collaborators who did not manage to register will be covered during the vetting exercise.
As for War Veterans and Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees, the upcoming vetting programme, whose arrangements would be announced shortly, will be the final exercise for ascertaining their credentials. Madam Speaker Ma’am, regarding heroes’ spouses and dependants, they are entitled to similar educational and medical benefits as Veterans of the Liberation Struggle except for funeral grants. This is in terms of the National Heroes Act (Chapter 10:16).”