|Remember heroes’ widows|
|Friday, 10 August 2012 00:00|
President Mugabe is an astute statesman, gifted with leadership qualities and charm that is incomparable the world over. He is a fatherly figure whom we have known to listen and understand issues with speed and depth. For many of us in the families of late national heroes and heroines, our only cry is to have access to him because those around him have made it almost impossible, yet we know that once we get access to him, our problems will be solved almost immediately.
According to the National Heroes Act (Chapter 10:16), the designation of heroes is done by the President.
“Where the President considers that any deceased person who was a citizen of Zimbabwe, who has deserved well of his country on account of his outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service to Zimbabwe, he (the President) may by notice in the Gazette designate such a person a national, provincial or district hero of Zimbabwe.”
Upon the death of a war liberator a Politburo meeting is called. Members of that committee are given the opportunity to vote for or against the declaration of that individual’s status as either a national, provincial or district hero/heroine.
It is said a national hero status is the highest honour that can be conferred upon an individual while this still remains a mystery to the surviving families of these gallant soldiers.
From the perspective and experiences, both the past and the present, of the immediate and extended family of these heroes/heroines life has become an unending struggle, hence the dire need to meet our President to share our grievances with him.
Right from the time one is declared there’s an expectation of benefits that the President commits himself and his Government to deliver to the surviving spouse and children.
As many would expect, basic benefits such as tuition fees, a reasonable monthly allowance for State widows, scholarships, medical aid facility, transport and decent accommodation are all to be made accessible to the surviving spouses given that she is left with the painful task of managing a family, individually.
It has never been and it will never be an offence that these families claim these benefits. When these heroes and heroines sacrificially went to the struggle it was all in the good name of liberation from the imperialist who had robbed and tormented the people of this nation for decades.
The people that suffered mostly from the effects of this struggle are their wives and children of which the suffering still goes on today.
Through the work of some officers and ministers like Tendai Biti that sacrifice today is mocked! A good number of these widows have reached retirement age. A good number of these orphans is unemployed, deprived of decent education and are left behind on most economic empowerment programmes.
We believe that the same people who are in these offices, despite their political affiliation, deprive us of the right to meet the President fearing that we would expose their deeds to him.
Many people in these offices are deliberately frustrating us because they know that once the opportunity arises we tell the President what is happening in some of these offices, as a result things will be done.
For example, the President might not know that currently a national hero’s widow’s salary is US$24. Yes, US$24! Miraculously, somehow that is supposed to cater for needs, her children’s tuition (primary, secondary or university education), food, health, transport, etc. This is the allowance of a widow of someone who is accorded the “highest-level of status” in Zimbabwe. What about the widows of the provincial and the liberation war heroes?
After 32 years of independence a majority of these widows are still striving to own a piece of land and homes with very little success. Yet these are the very things these fathers and husbands went to the struggle for.
Why sacrifice your life for so many years in the struggle only for your wife and kids to be the last if not the least people to access the benefits?
These families spend years, months, days and hours in offices knocking from door to door “asking” for their benefits, the very things they themselves were in the struggle for. This independence, this land reform programme . . . this indigenisation, who is it all for?
It is just a folk-tale for most of us. How does this justify the discrimination that has been going on for all these years? These families suffer silently for fear of victimisation.
Various individuals who have employed themselves to judge who is worthy or not worthy of the leader’s time keep the President at arms’ length, and yet they should be “the people;s servants”.
They sit and pray God choosing who gets what and when.
How many widows own “a” property? How many properties do some of our leaders own? How much is the monthly allowance of a widow? How many allowances do some of our leaders have? How many widows own a piece of land?
How many farms do some of our leaders own? How many widows own vehicles? How many vehicles do some of our leaders own?
Going into the intense details of all this and
more would only demean the purpose of the struggle that was meant to benefit all Zimbabweans
especially the loved ones of these great men and women.
Through all these battles, the widows of national heroes decided to form an association called
Zimbabwe Association for Widows of National Heroes and a trust called Custodians of the Legacy Trust.
The goal is to raise funds and start projects that will empower them to be self-reliant and to preserve the true cause of the liberation struggle.
To every ministry, corporate company and individual that has genuinely made an effort to assist our cause, many thanks.
Streets, schools and buildings are named after
our heroes and so far that is the only meaningful credit they got for spending sleepless, hungry
nights in trenches, dodging bombs and bullets to survive.
Once the struggle was about fighting against the colonialist and yes we conquered but now there’s a new struggle among ourselves for the abundant spoils that can never be exhausted even within the 32 years of liberation.
You can never exhaust the riches of this nation, after all they were never meant for the chosen few. The land and these minerals are for the benefit of every Zimbabwean.
As you are sitting there in your office or your mansion stuffing your belly with good food, filling your deep pockets remember that you are where you are because of some man or woman who mastered well the concept of the liberation struggle.
Independence was not about how much you
amass before your term of office expires but about how much value your input in the lives of the people of this beautiful country before your journey in
life ends. That’s what separates the cream from the milk!
l Bellinda Cele is the last born daughter of the late national hero Cde Cephas Cele and is Secretary-General of the Custodian of the Legacy Trust.