Mabvuku-Tafara Member of Parliament James Maridadi has called for the established of a fully-fledged Ministry of War Veterans because some of them are living in desperation and are being insulted “ko imi makainda kuhondo makadzoka nei?“
He said one legislator Irene Zindi had been asked by another Member of Parliament: “Iimi vana Hon. Zindi makaenda ku struggle mukagobura chii?”
He said this was obscene at its highest and should not be tolerate.
Maridadi said the government should create a stand-alone Ministry of War Veterans to look after the welfare of war veterans because some were living in absolute poverty.
He cited the example of Debra Cele, wife of national hero Cephas Cele whom he said lived in his constituency but did not have a house of her own.
“Yesterday, as I was coming out of this House, I received a call from a widow of a war veteran who lies buried at the Heroes Acre, Mrs. Cele, who lives in my constituency and she does not have a house to live in.
“She is a widow of a war veteran not only of a war veteran but of a national hero. She lives in my constituency and she does not have a house to live in. When I spoke to her she said her case was not only peculiar to her but there are many other widows, not only of war veterans but of national heroes who lie buried at the Heroes Acre who are in the same position as hers,” he said.
Maridadi said the Ministry of War Veterans should not be a department in the Ministry of Defence or Social Welfare. He asked if the government could have a full ministry dedicated to sports or psychomotor why not one for war veterans.
When that ministry was set up it should be staffed by war veterans. People should not use the excuse that war veterans were not educated because they were. Some of them had gone back to school after the war.
“Mr. Speaker I do not agree with the strategy that War Victims Compensation Fund should be administered by the Ministry of Social Welfare. I do not also agree with the notion that vetting of war veterans should be done by some ministry or should come under the Ministry of Defence.
“I think the Ministry of War Veterans, if anything, when Ministries are being appointed and Ministers are being appointed the first Ministry that should be appointed should be the Ministry of War Veterans with a permanent secretary and a Minister and a budget and that budget should take care of everything.
“If honestly we have a Ministry of Psychomotor we should honestly have a Ministry of War Veterans,” he said.
MR. MARIDADI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir for recognising me and I will endeavour to speak in the Queen’s language. On this very important motion which was moved by Hon. Muderedzwa, the issue of welfare of war veterans is an emotive one for very obvious reasons and it was debated in this House and I would like to take members down memory lane and see how much importance we attach to the liberation war, or to the nationalist movement which then gave birth to the liberation war and to independence.
Out of interest Mr. Speaker, if I were to ask members of this House, how many people know the first cadres of the liberation war by name, the six who died at Chinhoyi. I can guarantee you Mr. Speaker that I will not be able to get those names in this House. If I go further Mr. Speaker and ask members of this House, first members of the Dare reChimurenga, Mr. Speaker I might not be able to get all their names. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. member. You correctly stated at the beginning of your submission that the subject is emotive, so if you could ensure that you do not increase the emotiveness of the debate by just being rational to the point. Thank you Hon. Maridadi.
MR. MARIDADI: Thank you Mr. Speaker I have made my preamble to this statement. The issue of war veterans, I got interested on it as a producer and presenter on Radio and Television when the War Victims Compensation Fund was being disbursed. I came across a cadre of the liberation war, a war veteran who said that he had not received money despite the fact that he had participated in the liberation struggle.
He gave me names of people he had fought the war side by side with, and he gave me the name of Hon. Gwanetsa, that was the first time that I got to know about hon. Gwanetsa. He told me that there was so much corruption in the disbursement of the War Victims Compensation Fund.
Although he had sustained injuries during the war he had not received compensation or gratuity. Mr. Speaker, I took that matter on radio and discussed it at length and I became so intimately involved with the issue of war veterans.
Yesterday, as I was coming out of this House, I received a call from a widow of a war veteran who lies buried at the Heroes Acre, Mrs. Cele, who lives in my constituency and she not have a house to live in. She is a widow of a war veteran not only of a war veteran but of a national hero. She lives in my constituency and she does not have a house to live in. When I spoke to her she said her case was not only peculiar to her but there are many other widows, not only of war veterans but of national heroes who lie buried at the Heroes Acre who are in the same position as hers.
It is very sad Mr. Speaker, that when a war veteran dies and is declared a liberation war hero or a national hero, we all go there to bury him. The biggest loser Mr. Speaker when a father dies is obviously the wife and the children and it appears that there is no mechanism that has been put in place to take care of the orphans and widows of the heroes.
I am quickly reminded of a case that I was relating to Hon. Gezi some three weeks ago because I was friends with the late Border Gezi. I attended his funeral at the Stadium in Bindura. As I was there, the President was there and he was gave a speech. Border Gezi’s children were in the company of a journalist whom I know because he had worked at ‘The Herald’ and I trained with her. She was holding those two young girls and I said to her, ‘who are those young girls?” and she said, James these are the children of Border Gezi. They were standing in the periphery. The tent where the President was seated with senior members of the party and Ministers was full. Border Gezi’s children were seated out there and nobody was giving them recognition. I told Phyllis to take the children and seat them next to the President. In this whole scenario…
DR. J. GUMBO: On a point of order!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, what is your point of order?
DR. J. GUMBO: Mr. Speaker Sir, the mover of the motion, what he has put forward is very clear and there is no need for circumlocution. He has stated exactly what he wants to be done and that is what we must debate and no politicking. So, if you can be saved by being given time to debate exactly what the motion says.
MR. SPEAKER: I think what Hon. Dr. Gumbo is simply saying is – can we stick to the provisions of the motion and debate accordingly.
MR. MARIDADI: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I am debating this motion because I am talking of the plight of war veterans and the orphans, widows of the war veterans. I am doing exactly that.
When I talk about Mrs. Cele having no house, I think I am talking of the plight of the war veterans. Mrs. Cele is a widow of a war veteran who lies buried at the Heroes Acre, whom I spoke to yesterday and she does not have a house to stay in.
MR. SPEAKER. Order, I think what Hon. Gumbo was simply saying was that the incident you were quoting was circumstantial. What you are saying about the widow definitely relates to the motion. That is all. So the plight of the said widow definitely is within the provisions of the motion. So carry on, Hon. Maridadi.
MR. MARIDADI: Mr. Speaker, the reason I was relating the issue of Hon. Gezi to members who sit in this House is because it touches on the whole issue of the welfare of war veterans. Now, Mr. Speaker, in light of the attempted gag by Hon. Gumbo, I will live that part of my debate and will move on.
One issue that has also happened to me Mr. Speaker is that, I have taken time to speak to veterans of the liberation war and it appears that what we need to do is learn from other countries that have fought liberation wars. I will give you an example of United Kingdom after the 1st World War; they had a whole Ministry of War Veterans. War veterans were not looked after by a department in the Ministry of Defence or in the Ministry of Welfare. There was a whole ministry which looked after war veterans, a Ministry of War Veterans that looked after the welfare of the war veterans to know where war veterans died.
To locate their graves and for reburial of war veterans and I will also give another example which I think Hon. Gumbo says is circumlocution. I had in the early 2000s Mr. Speaker Sir, whether I would call it a fortune or misfortune to be involved with the location of a grave of a fallen hero who died in the last days of the liberation war in 1979. What we have to do was to locate the grave of that liberation war hero. He died in the Tangwena area of Manicaland. We got people specialists who looked at, because there were a number of graves were identified by people in the locality.
There are about six or seven graves and yet this friend of mine wanted to just to exhume the remains of his brother and re-burry them. So, we ended up exhuming about four different graves before we could locate the actual grave of his young brother whose bones lay buried in a shallow grave. We took them to a specialist only at that point were the bones correctly identified for reburial. I was thinking to myself could this not be something that could be done by a Ministry? Then we have a department that only looks at the location of graves of fallen heroes and identify those fallen heroes and match them to the relatives for reburial.
But, what happens today if you go to Manicaland there are so many sites that you come across and you are told by villagers that there was a battle at this particular point and I think ten members of liberation war of either ZANLA or ZIPRA fell in the struggle and they lie buried there. Up to this day those graves are still there they still lie in shallow graves, 34 years after independence and yet Government put together a War Victim’s Compensation Fund which I think before the War Victim’s Compensation Fund should have been put in place. There should have put in place a fund that locates the graves of those that fell in the struggle and then compensation for those who are living –[ AN HON. MEMBER: Chiita yako motion ] – do I respond to Hon. Gumbo who I think is also not a war veteran.
MR. SPEAKER: Just address the Chair please?
MR. MARIDADI: The issue of war veterans Mr. Speaker as you rightly say is a very emotive one. I come to this House with a heavy heart because my own brother who participated in the liberation war from 1969 is currently in Parirenyatwa Hospital, suffering from ailments some of which I think afflicted him during the war of liberation. He is in Parirenyatwa Hospital today and is battling to pay medical expenses.
Mr. Speaker I think Government should put in place a fund and a Ministry. If we have a Ministry of Sport that looks after sport and I think honestly we should be able to have a standalone Ministry of War Veterans which looks after war veterans. That Ministry should not – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear ] – that ministry should not be staffed by people that are said to be educated but should be staffed by people who understand and know the plight of war veterans and there are many of them. There is something that is always peddled that war veterans are not educated. It is not true Mr. Speaker. Whoever said war veterans are not educated? It is not necessarily true because there are war veterans that went to the struggle, they left school came back from the struggle and well known to be so educated.
Mr. Speaker there is somebody that I heard saying to a war veteran ko imi makaenda kuhondo makadzoka nei? and one of those people who was a subject of that criticism was Hon. Zindi who sits in this House. One member said to her imi vana Hon. Zindi makaenda ku struggle mukagobura chii that person is able to say that because a war of liberation was fought by people who sacrificed their lives. I remember one of those people – I was joking with Hon. Gwanesta the first day that I met him that do you know Hon. Gwanesta during the armed struggle If I had reported you to the authorities I would have earned ten thousand dollars. As a commander there was a bounty of ten thousand dollars that was put on his head.
For somebody, twenty five years after independence to come forward and say to Cde Gwanetsa makaenda ku hondo makadzoka nei Ithink it is obscene at its highest and it should not be tolerated – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear ] – Mr. Speaker I do not agree with the strategy that War Victims Compensation Fund should be administered by the Ministry of Social Welfare. I do not also agree with the notion that vetting of war veterans should be done by some ministry or should come under the Ministry of Defense. I think the Ministry of War Veterans, if anything, when Ministries are being appointed and Ministers are being appointed the first Ministry that should be appointed should be the Ministry of War Veterans – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear ] – with a permanent secretary and a Minister and a budget and that budget should take care of everything. If honestly we have a Ministry of Psychomotor we should honestly have a Ministry of War Veterans. Mr. Speaker, most of the issues that I would have wanted to debate Mr. Speaker were debated and I will rest my case and say I will support his motion and I understand what this motion stands for. I would like to thank the mover of the motion and I rest my case at this point Mr. Speaker Sir.