By Tarisai Maunganidze
Zimbabwe’s veterans of the 1970s war have petitioned Parliament to amend the Veterans of the Struggle Act in a bid to have a bigger share of the national cake and absolute recognition for liberating the country from the yoke of colonialism.
The Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services led by retired Brigadier General Levi Mayihlome presented a report in Parliament from the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) Veterans where the war veterans demanded a plethora of socio-economic benefits.
“The Act should have a clause clearly stating customs and excise duty exemptions on importation of vehicles and equipment for veterans of the liberation struggle and economic issues such as the awarding of grant or concessions, mining claims and empowerment drive benefits must be an automatic entitlement upon demand,” reads the report.
War veterans further requested free medical assistance from both private and public institutions and land tax exemption.
“The war veterans league informed the committee that access to medical aid should not be limited to government medical institutions. Rather, beneficiaries should access medical care from both private and public hospitals as long as they are able to get the best possible medical assistance offered in those institutions,” reads the report.
“The committee observed that war veterans maintained that it was high time they were exempted from paying land tax as a gesture of appreciation for their indisputable sacrifice.”
The war veterans are also pressing for awarding of benefits based on one’s contribution in the battlefield.
“The Act is not explicit on how benefits would be awarded to different categories of the veterans of the liberation struggle. It was argued that it is unfair practice to award the same benefits to the four categories yet their degree of sacrifice in the struggle was irrefutably different,” reads the report.
The Committee also stated that the liberation fighters should receive bravery medals such as those given to chiefs.
“The Committee observed that the provision of honorary medals was long overdue. The liberation war fighters were concerned about the delay in fulfilling that obligation by the responsible authorities.”
The ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has also been asked by the war veterans to amend the constitution to provide for the war veterans quota in the membership of Parliament by January 2022.
The late former president Robert Mugabe government awarded monetary rewards of Z$50,000 in 1997 as a token of appreciation for the role war veterans played in liberating the country from white minority rule.
Analysts say the unbudgeted payouts signalled Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.