Tshinga Judge Dube Special Correspondent
On Tuesday, April 18, Zimbabwe celebrates 37 years of Independence and, like everyone in the country, veterans of the liberation struggle appreciate and cherish the day which came about through sacrifice in the protracted war of liberation.
Many of us have lived to see the glory of Independence and freedom, which came at a heavy price because some of our cadres did not make it into independent Zimbabwe.
Over the course of the years, we have protected and consolidated our Independence and we appreciate how our gallant leader, who is the Patron of War Veterans, President Mugabe, has continued to guide us on the path of revolution.
Yes, we have had a number of challenges during these last few years but these challenges, which have affected everyone including war veterans, are the handiwork of forces that are against our happiness and success who have, topmost, imposed illegal sanctions on the country.
Our economy has not performed very well as witnessed by a decline in the welfare service delivery. As we all appreciate, it is not our pleasure, as leaders, that our people find themselves in such lamentable positions.
If wishes were horses, we would make sure that everyone of us gets a good share of the welfare benefits that our party and Government have pledged in the Constitution.
The Constitution makes it a duty for Government to provide for the welfare of veterans of the liberation struggle but this has fallen foul of the economic downturn that Zimbabwe has experienced over the years.
But hope is the last thing to be quenched from a man. We will work harder to make sure that your welfare is improved. There are a lot of promises that we have failed to fulfil, such as establishing projects for all the ex- fighters. We have not been able to pay fees for the children adequately, thus causing serious disgruntlement among children of war veterans. It has not been easy to get funds to attend to your health needs as well.
We also have faced some challenges on the assistance of burials of our dear comrades who have passed on.
A majority of these situations are beyond our control. The Ministry of Finance has encouraged us to work on projects to augment the meagre pensions you receive. We must appreciate that this also requires some capital which we have not been able to access. The war collaborators and non-combatant cadres have patiently waited to be vetted. We have explained that the process is beyond our ministry alone. It has to go through the Cabinet Committee, then be debated in Cabinet and finally tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
The process of aligning our laws to the Constitution has taken longer than anticipated. This affects the group of comrades who were previously excluded from the law such as war collaborators, nationalists and non-combatant cadres.
It will be noted that that Cabinet is presently working on this matter under the auspices of the Ad hoc Committee of Cabinet which is co-chaired by the two Vice Presidents, Cdes Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko.
During the course of last year and the current year, President Mugabe met war veterans as well as war collaborators, non-combatant cadres and widows of the liberation struggle. In all these meetings, we were able to air our views on various subjects.
It was heartening to see that His Excellency the President took a serious note to all our requests and challenges. It may seem that not much has been done to address those issues but as I have alluded to before, our economy has not performed well thus affecting all our plans.
For our own part, the ministry is working hard with different line ministries to get into some projects that can augment our meagre pensions. We must not despair. Rome was not built in a day.
We shall continue to consult with all stakeholders, in particular ex-fighters, on the way forward.
Today, as ever, the imperative for unity remains key. It has always been said that unity is strength, divided we fall. As we work during the 37th year of our Independence, we must be seen to maintain the same maturity that led us to conquer the colonial regime of Ian Smith and his henchmen. We must be united for the sake of our country.
We now have children who are looking upon us for their future; we need to appreciate that if we do not stand united, our children may not understand the meaning of unity which has kept our country as an example of a peaceful and respected country.
Disunity and strife even gives a window of opportunity to our enemies to sneak in, widen divisions and create confusion with the ultimate aim of destroying the revolution.
That should not be allowed at all costs.
Challenges, and indeed disagreements, will always be there but they should not be allowed to erode our values and goals.
Neither can they erode our enthusiasm in our hard-won Independence.
Yes, we may have some problems or challenges but the most important thing is we have freedom.
War veterans will continue to march under our flag led by our revolutionary, tested leader, President Mugabe.
The writer is the Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Former Political Detainees and Restrictees. He wrote this piece in commemoration of Zimbabwe’s 37th anniversary of Independence.