Clive Malunga

Consider the Plight of War Veterans

At the onset of our independence from our colonial masters, all freedom fighters had very high hopes of a good life in a liberated Zimbabwe. Comrades would talk about where they wished to stay. Most comrades were looking forward to staying in low density suburbs such as Malbereign, Avondale, Mount Pleasant Waterfalls and Borrowdale.  You would hear comrades talking of ‘Deki Kumusha’ which simply meant ‘enjoyment in our motherland’.

The comrades knew they had played their part by successfully prosecuting a very difficult and protracted war which involved sacrificing their lives for the good of their country men and women. They had risked their lives for the sake of Zimbabweans who were going through thick and thin under the illegal Ian Smith regime. Dismantling the racist and white supremacist regime was no walk in the park.  Many combatants lost their lives while a big number also lost limb for it. Little did the comrades know that life in independent Zimbabwe would continue in the same way or even become more difficult than the armed struggle itself.

All the comrades were supposed to be rehabilitated. Staying in the bush was no easy task because of the danger posed by wild animals and strange diseases like matekenya, maharikenzi, zvifasano, typhoid, malaria and many others besides the enemy’s bullets.  There was shortage of food and combatants were severely undernourished. Life was extremely hard. You had to live one day at a time and give thanks to the Lord if you managed to see the next day. Being a freedom fighter was not like a picnic: Comrades faced death and death throughout.

There are so many comrades who were injured during the liberation struggle through gunfire, bombs, poison, and torture by Rhodesian forces. All comrades up to this day suffer from trauma. These gallant sons and daughters were supposed to be provided with all necessities to start a new life, for example, accommodation, health care, a reasonable pension and psychological counseling. Comrades who were injured during the armed struggle are the ones who were supposed to get first priority of travelling abroad to get medical attention in advanced facilities which we do not have in Zimbabwe. These things were hardly done. Many comrades are struggling to make ends meet and are surviving from hand to mouth. They have become a laughing stock because of neglect by those that occupy positions of power. Practical examples are comrades Mayor Urimbo,  Edgar (Twoboy) Tekere and Lookout Masuku who all died poor. The efforts of these protagonists of the Second Chimurenga were in vain for they never enjoyed the fruits of liberating Zimbabwe.

Cde Mayor Urimbo

What is both surprising and disappointing is that many who served in the Rhodesian army are still getting hefty packages from Britain. Ex-Rhodesian soldiers are, therefore, living comfortably while many comrades I meet look like beggars. The pride of being liberators has since vanished. They have nothing to cheer them; they are not even allowed to pick the crumbs that fall off from the rich rulers’ tables.

At independence we had enough resources to conduct proper integration of all combatants into society. However, very little effort was made to assist them. All the freedom fighters were left to fend for themselves. Although government offered money for all former combatants who wished to go back to school, it was not possible for most of them to take the offer. How could someone go back to school on an empty stomach and without a roof over one’s head? Even if school fees were availed for those who were in town, how many former combatants retired to the rural areas, and have since miserably died in abject poverty?

Cde Edgar Tekere

My suggestion is that the state should qualify all former combatants for some minority shareholding in mining companies owned and run by either the Chinese or the Russians. The Chinese and Russians have historical connections with former freedom fighters and working together will be easy. The level of education must not be a requirement. The mining equipment would be provided by our partners who have the financial means while the war veterans’ shares would come from our land. We have platinum, gold, diamonds, lithium and granite mining companies. My wish is that a small percentage of shares in those entities should go towards the welfare of former freedom fighters. But alas, the opposite is happening.   Those in power/ zvigananda are sharing all the benefits of the country’s natural resources with their kith and kin.

Cde Lookout Masuku

When comrades gathered at the civic centre to demonstrate against poor living conditions, former president, Cde Robert Mugabe unleashed riot police to beat and arrest them using baton sticks and water cannons. Those who succeeded to run away sought refuge at Jenaguru Arts Centre and the surrounding Kopje hills. How ironic it is that those who fought for independence are denied the freedom to express their grievances!  The former freedom fighters epitomise the quest for freedom and are the true abstract of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. However, in our country, the economic condition of most veterans has been used to judge the liberation struggle. If they are poor how would the ordinary ‘born-free’ citizens see the value of the liberation struggle. You have to forgive those young ones for saying the liberation struggle was unnecessary; magamba akafira mahara. Such statements are prompted by the economic status of most war veterans. The sacrifice of joining the armed struggle on its own was enough to qualify ex-combatants for national hero status and honorary degrees of sacrifice.  I personally believe Comrade Chinx Chingaira was supposed to be declared a national hero. Putting Comrade Chinx at the same level of provincial hero status as the late musician Soul Jah Love was a mockery to the liberation struggle and all former liberation war fighters.These actions by those in power just serve to solidify the thinking that the Second Chimurenga was not necessary.

Cde Chinx Chingaira

All freedom fighters were bound together by the spirit of comradeship during the war. They were sons and daughters of the soil sharing a common intense desire to fight for the liberation of our country. They could share everything however little like blood brothers and sisters. Now, that spirit of comradeship has evaporated.  Those who wield power lack the spirit of sharing and spreading the wealth of our country to all corners of the country. Former freedom fighters have been reduced to objects of shame. They are nothing and do not exist in the vocabulary of the superrich rulers. They only think about them during election season when they want to take advantage of their desperation and use them for their selfish ends.

Why must former combatants live as destitutes when our country is blessed with plenty of natural resources? Why should the war veterans be pushed to the fringes of economic and political power? It is all because of the greedy of those in power. In Zimbabwe when you are known to have millions in offshore accounts you automatically qualify to join the ruling elite. Money speaks. How the money was acquired is no one’s business! The poor comrades are not near and will never be near the gravy train. Only rich people like Uebert Angel, Passion Java and bootlickers like Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga and James Maridhadhi will qualify easily.

 Dr Chenjerai Hunzvi at one time appointed me to lead a protest march to State House demanding better living conditions for all freedom fighters. We walked to state house singing revolutionary songs and chanting slogans. We had senior comrades who supported the march. I remember we had Cde Max, Cde Hitler, Cde Shingi, Cde Para, Cde Masvingo, Cde Bazooka, Cde Cease-Fire, Cde Makiwa, Cde Mahiya, Cde Ndhlovu and Cde Mahachi and many others who marched side by side as comrades. When we reached state house we were told by a security detail that Cde Mugabe had gone to his Munhumutapa offices. Luckily, we had already started networking with Comrades at State House. A fellow comrade, Winston Changara, who was an aide to President Mugabe came out and informed us that the President was still at State House. We camped at State House demanding to be addressed by his excellency.

When President Robert Mugabe realised that we were going nowhere he called Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa to come and address our grievances. Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the comrades and assured all the former combatants present that all the former combatants were going to be paid a lump sum of $50 000 as a way of appreciating the sacrifice rendered during the war of liberation. If I am to reflect, definitely the comrades needed to be compensated. They had waited for too long. Promise after promise.  That’s why they ended up marching to state house. Comrades are not worth $50 000.All freedom fighters are worth much more and deserve the nation’s appreciation. Freedom fighters feel that they are still in the trenches. Nothing has changed: in actual fact things are now much worse than during the liberation war.  It’s very painful to suffer when you clearly know that you contributed towards Zimbabwe ‘s independence and you.were looking forward to contribute physically to building Zimbabwe. When we share we enable citizens to utilise their abilities to contribute towards the development of Zimbabwe. We do not want handouts. We are a hardworking people. We detest laziness. We want to be enabled to work unimpeded in various areas to develop our country.

It is never too late. All remaining freedom fighters will enjoy the ‘Deki Kumusha’ from mid-2023. We need to be vigilant when choosing national leaders next year. Let us not vote leaders who have a history of failing to fulfill their promises.

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