War veterans should back off

War veterans must temper their sense of entitlement by recognising the unsung heroes of the liberation struggle

War veterans must temper their sense of entitlement by recognising the unsung heroes of the liberation struggle

Political Mondays with Amai Jukwa
LAST week legislators were treated to inexpensive Parliamentary entertainment as Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) and Mandi Chimene (Zanu-PF) squared off like pompous teenagers. Sibanda took considerable exception to Chimene’s pointed finger, which NewsDay went on to dutifully describe as ‘a threatening finger’.
What large fingers these Zanu-PF legislators must have!

The subject of their quarrel was a motion on the plight of war veterans, which the MDC-T legislator heckled incessantly much to the irritation of his Zanu-PF colleague. It was pointed out that war veterans were receiving US$175 per month for their labours during the struggle, an apparently unsatisfactory sum.

War veterans for their part have complained bitterly over perceived neglect by their fellow comrades who have now joined Government. “We deserve better”.

“We fought for this country”.
The question is, do war veterans really deserve better? Are war veterans entitled to special treatment?
The answer to those questions depends on their motives for going to war.

If it were the noble draw of patriotism that sent them to war then it would stand to reason that what they did was an admirable act of grace for which no payment is required. However, if one was motivated by mercenary tendencies and an imagined bounty then Zimbabwean taxpayers must certainly cough up good money.

I’m reminded of the Libyan rebels in Benghazi demanding a greater share of the spoils because it is they that dared rise up against Gaddafi.
I’m being disingenuous. The truth lies somewhere in between.

After the war I would have expected the Government to expend great resources in ensuring war veterans had special access to education and training to allow them to enjoy a gainful existence.

This is on the reasoning that many of them had left school prematurely to join the struggle. I would similarly not object if a special fund was set aside offering war veterans modest start-up funds if they felt drawn to business, repayable of course.

However it is important to recognise the distinction between giving special help and being indebted.
Help suggests a voluntary generosity toward one already in effort; it is not a burden of responsibility for the well-being of grown men and women.
The problem is that war veterans feel they are owed financial security at the expense of everyone else.

I respectfully disagree.
Zimbabwean taxpayers do not owe war veterans a comfortable living any more than they owe the same to an orphan equally in need of State assistance.

The term ‘war veteran’ has become a term of abuse, hardly endearing.
Part of this is due to this disagreeable sense of financial entitlement regularly displayed by war veterans.
It has robbed them of the prestige and honour they rightly deserve. This is to be expected.

If you are demanding money for your services then you cannot equally claim nobility. You become something of a mercenary.
To be fair, mercenaries are far more reasonable in their expectations, content with a one-off payment.

You pay them once and they go away. However, war veterans seem to want it all, lump sum payments in the 1990’s, farms during the land reform programme and now a comfy monthly stipend. “We deserve it; we fought for this country”.

Medical doctors in Government employ currently earn us$283 for their monthly labours.
Pensioners receive less than US$70. It is against this background that we must consider the US$175 that war veterans are said to receive.
If highly skilled professionals have come to terms with our economic problems I think it’s high time those who shout the loudest patriotic slogans do the same.

Quite frankly, US$175 is a lot of money for someone who is doing no work.
I cannot accept an argument that says an impoverished citizen living in a squatter camp should stand behind war veterans in the queue for Government assistance.

Surely war veterans did not go to war to become super citizens?
If war veterans are hungry they should know that they are not alone in that hunger; it would be a lot more dignified if they lobbied Government for a broad-based safety net for all citizens so that nobody goes hungry.

It seems as though war veterans are suggesting that they should not be poor even though many other Zimbabweans are poor, that they should be insulated from poverty on the grounds that they fought the war. This is nonsense.
War veterans must temper their sense of entitlement by recognising the unsung heroes of the liberation struggle.

The war was a collective effort. Black businessmen were shot dead for supplying jeans and other materials to the fighters.
Peasants put themselves at grave risk to feed these fighters.
They slaughtered precious livestock all in the spirit of liberation. How much do they deserve?

What can we say of the many thousands that actually died in this cruel war?
Their families lost more than just breadwinners.
They lost a loved son, a brother, a sister. They did not even get a chance to bury them.

What monetary value can we attach to such loss?
Are they not entitled to a monthly financial consolation greater than those who are alive today?
War veterans are not super citizens and must accept that they too must bear with our economic circumstances. Nobody can jump the queue.

Their selfish demands for more money will bear no fruit apart from diminishing their prestige and that of the noble struggle they waged.

Ndatenda, ndini muchembere wenyu Amai Jukwa

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  • Mafira kureva

    Mabaya dede nemukanwa thats what we term sacrifice , earlier these guys were given demob and some bought mombe makabichi, they were given loans to start business , what comes to my mind the likes of ujamaa buses but they squandered all those privileges , come 1997 they were given 50k and their kids get medical assistance from the state and school fees plus monthly pension of 175 . Kominda matractor ..this is too much .. kana zvakadaro hapana asina kugwa hondo isu zvipfuyo misha yakaparara asi chi chatakawana .. Tisungirireyi pamakatisunungura kana zvakadaro .

    • Hurungudo

      Mafira Kureva your last statement defines the level of your thinking. Need I say which level?

  • Nebukatnezar

    Mai Jukwa being a social commentator has this tendency to look at one side of the story. You are irked by a war vert requesting for a modest allowance but you can’t raise a finger on the millions of dollars being paid to Rhodesians who retired. This govt is honouring debts incurred by Rhodesians for the weapons they used to murder our people, i have not heard you raise an issue against that, but you are worried by the pittance war vert are getting?

    • Mukotami

      WHo is paying this millions to ex-rhodies??? Please clarify

  • Jethro Zuwarimwe

    Its high time that this whole issue of war vet be discussed and I am happy the herald has at last given space to this issue. This is a controversial issue that requires honest debate. I for one believes that the war in Zimbabwe was not just fought by those carrying guns alone but it was a collective effort. To start with who are the parents of these war wets and what role did they play in the war? Did the war vets buy their own clothes let alone food? Who was giving them protection and intelligence? How many people died or were killed while protecting the fighters? Where did the Maoist philosophy go that of water and fish? Were they lying to the general populace by slogans that ZANU iwe neni tinebasa rekusunungura Zimbabwe? I honestly think that someone who was not a real fighter has twisted the minds of the real fighters and coined them war vets. I have brothers who went there and one of them did not come back and the other came back and joined the army but died in the Zimbabwe national army and left kids whom we are looking after and we never went to government for any support. What these guys are doing is tarnishing the noble cause of the fighters by commercializing it. Yes the poor ones should be supported but to tell me that even a Minister who is having pecks but still want to be paid as a war vet I will agree to disagree. These are some of the issues which will continue to bog our country down

  • Gadzirisai Zvinhu

    DO NOT be distracted and drawn into this debate…..DO NOT let issues be diverted by Amai Jukwa…what is at the core of Zimbabwe’s problems? there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. The very root cause of our crisis affects, not just the War Vets, but the entire nation

  • Hurungudo

    I agree fully with amai Jukwa. The liberation war can never be attributed to only the person who held the gun. Being a war veteran puts me in a better position to understand the prevailing situation in the country I liberated and demanding what is not there is defying the ethos of the liberation struggle. The masses have very little now and we cannot take it away from them through such demands. Our guiding song during the war “Nzira Dzemasoja” spelt out that we must not take away that which belongs to our masses. It applies to this day. What we must attack are the “chefs”. The “chefs” were “chefs” during the war, residing in the cosiest of places in Europe, America and other parts of our continent (we thank them for assisting in mobilizing resources then) but they remained “chefs” to this day and they are stinking rich. The whole ZANU-PF heirachy is stinking rich and that is where our energies as war veterans must be expended. We must challenge this unequal distribution of resources. We were together and poor during the liberation struggle. How did it happen that the whole politiburo is rich now? Tell me one member of the ZANU-PF leadership, from provincial to national, is poor? Just one!

  • Cde Fide

    “The problem is that war veterans feel they are owed financial security at the expense of everyone else.” Yes, they are owed a livable pension at the expense of everyone else because they sacrificed their lives for everyone else. Your interpretation of what the heroic fighters went through is demeaning and it is apparent that you have convinced yourself that the sacrifices made then are trivial compared to the problems we face today. It seems, in your comfy status, you are forgetting that the very problems of today are the pains which have to be experienced during the journey of total liberation. And, as long as the struggle for total liberation continues, the Cdes are still relevant and so are their needs. War vets are that part of history you will never be able to wish away so much as you may try.

  • ben

    “The answers to those questions depends on their motive for going to war”? That is not only offensive but a very weak argument. US $175 is a pittance and telling War Veterans to back off is irresponsible of you as a social commentator. I do not get your argument here. Your target should be the fat cat legislators and government officials who line their pockets without due care. What is it you are going to buy with a that pittance.
    It is as clear as crystal why warvets went to war….to liberate this country and nothing else. World over warvets get support and that is the minimum

  • Vanoba Samare

    I’m always looking forward to Amai Jukwa’s
    Political Mondays’ column, Its kind of refreshing that a State paper now allows
    freedom of expression. To this week’s subject; I honestly think that we need to
    seriously engage the war veterans and enlighten them that as a country we can
    not progress if they continue to make uneconomical demands. For starters they
    have already received the previous benefits mentioned in the article in
    addition to a decent pension which even NSSA can not afford to give pensioners who
    have contributed to building this country in their own way. Suffice to say
    those that were maimed and disabled (and rendered invalid) got proportionate
    compensation, anything else beyond that is holding the nation in general and
    ZANU PF in particular at ransom. Surely every able-bodied Zimbabwean is
    striving to make ends meet daily and those most enterprising are doing better.
    They need to expend their energy on making this country work and bringing
    accountability to every man’s actions, including law makers, party and
    government officials.

  • IniHangu

    When you have the Dubes and Gwindis earning thousands per month for doing nothing, surely why should war veterans not demand more money as well after having sacrificed their entire lives from the freedom of others?