Tendai Rupapa recently in Bulawayo
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has come out in full support of a request by female former freedom fighters’ to go back to school and acquire knowledge to run successful income-generating projects across various sectors of the economy.
Amai Mnangagwa, who has a passion for women empowerment, on Thursday held a heart-to-heart interface with the erstwhile fighters to assess their needs and see how best she can assist them from the jaws of poverty.
The meeting, which was the first of its kind since the attainment of independence in 1980, was emotionally charged as some of the war veterans openly wept while narrating how their failure to go to school had resulted in them being marginalised.
Filled with pity, the First Lady said she was appealing for assistance from relevant authorities to set up schools for the benefit of former freedom fighters.
Adult literacy, which was previously frowned upon, has become an avenue through which people who were affected by war and economic challenges can advance their education up to university level and contribute meaningfully to the development of the country’s economy.
Should the female former freedom fighters acquire education, the First Lady emphasised, they will be able to make prudent business decisions and run their various income-generating projects profitably.
The meeting was between the First Lady and female former freedom fighters from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces and was held in a transparent environment where Amai Mnangagwa and the ex-fighters had a woman-to-woman exchange.
Amai Mnangagwa, who inclined an ear to the various concerns and promised to pass them to President Mnangagwa, immediately rolled out goat-rearing projects for the former fighters in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.
She also donated sewing machines for those from Bulawayo, who are expected to start producing reusable sanitary pads.
The First Lady’s intervention is the latest in a series of empowerment projects she is rolling for women and youths across the length and breadth of the country.
Wives of war veterans and war collaborators later joined the meeting.
Addressing the gathering, the First Lady said, “I want to thank you for coming out in your numbers so that we have a heart-to-heart talk as women,” she said.
“You should remain united as female former fighters so that when you speak, you speak with one voice for your benefit and for the benefit of the country.
“You should also do your projects in groups and this is only achieved if you are united. I am going to work with you and I am there to help you ensure these projects flourish for the benefit of you and your families. Some of you went to war at a tender age, a sign that you are brave and hardworking. I trust these projects are in safe hands.”
The First Lady spelt the need for the female former combatants to assume leadership positions so that they can better articulate and find solutions to the various challenges they face so that they earn recognition.
The First Lady decried the small number of women in the House of Assembly and those at the helm of various companies.
She also urged them to come out in their numbers to march against sanctions on October 25.
Sanctions, which were imposed on Zimbabwe by the West for redistributing land from the white minority to the black majority, have retarded economic progress in the country for almost two decades.
Countries in the Sadc region pledged to hold demonstrations for the removal of sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe, resulting in the prevailing economic challenges.
“You are important to us for you liberated this country. However, the war is not over yet, we have another war on the 25th where we will be fighting against sanctions. We want the sanctions imposed on our country to be removed.
“They have caused untold suffering. We also want to thank SADC for standing with us in this fight. I am urging you all vanamai to come out in your numbers on this day so that our voices count.
“This is not about a certain political party, this is about our nation Zimbabwe.”
The meeting, which was the first of its kind and a precursor to countrywide interfaces between the female former combatants and the First Lady, comes at a time when the latter is advocating the creation of a Freedom Fighters Day in line with other countries in the region.
Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa have such days on their calendars.
On the issue of education, Amai Mnangagwa said those who cannot go back to school will be enrolled with vocational training centres.
At the meeting, the First Lady brought along representatives from the women’s bank and urged the former fighters to utilise the bank and to work with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.
War veterans secretary for Women’s Affairs Cde Margaret Sithole thanked the First Lady for remembering female former freedom fighters.
“Amai has shown us the true meaning of love. This has never happened to us since we got our independence having a heart-to-heart discussion with the First Lady. The meeting was a first of its kind,” she said.
“She has rolled out projects for us and we are so grateful, we were not expecting this and it came to us as a surprise.
“As a listening mother she listened to all our concerns which she promised to forward to the President.
Amai will conduct similar meetings in all the country’s provinces.”
Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial affairs Judith Ncube and War Veterans secretary in the Politburo Cde Douglas Mahiya also attended the meeting.