HON. MLISWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to debate on this very important matter pertaining to the war veterans and in fact, the freedom fighters of this country. Mr. Speaker Sir, it is actually unacceptable that 37 years after independence, we still debate the welfare of the war veterans. The failure by Government to deal with the welfare of the war veterans says a lot in the way that this country has been governed for the past 17 years.
This country was brought about as a result of the liberation struggle which we are all indebted to. At the same time, there is nothing that has been done to recognise the freedom fighters and if anything, they have become a laughing stock of the society. There is never a nation in this world that does not recognise its freedom fighters; even America and Britain. We have for a long time attacked so many countries for interfering with our affairs yet the aspect of the war veterans and freedom fighters absolutely has nothing to do with interference.
There was a time, if you recall, that the war veterans’ welfare, when Dr. Chenjerai Hunzvi was the Chairperson, was addressed when the war veterans demanded money. Instead of us coming up with sustainable programmes for them, they were suffering and as a result, people blamed the economy that it was because the war veterans had demanded their money. This is not true but it was because those who were in power did not recognise the war veterans. As a result, it was a culmination of problems relating to their welfare and that culmination led to them being under pressure to say now we want our welfare to be dealt with. That was not done.
The land reform is another one again – willing buyer, willing seller, the Lancaster Agreement, they went to war and at that point in time, there was the aspect of land which is something that they went to the struggle for. That again was not addressed. The war veterans led that so everybody could be empowered and it is true and Zimbabweans today enjoy the land that they have as a result of the war veterans. But, despite the war veterans being empowered, we have some war veterans who have never benefitted from the land reform. We have war veterans who have land but do not have the capacity because of lack of resources. We have the Government still giving Presidential inputs to an economy which is well known for being productive. You cannot talk about bringing the production up to the level that Zimbabwe used to be known for by constantly giving people handouts. War veterans are forced to queue when it is time for them to get inputs, yet they are beneficiaries of the land reform programme.
It is important that the Government recognises the role of the war veterans by making them to be recognised even when inputs are being given. They have their own War Veterans Association and it does not stop the Government from giving a certain quantity to the War Veterans Association to be able to distribute amongst themselves without them interacting with the ordinary people on the ground. What has happened is that we have now made them to join queues and become insulted by ordinary people and young people who are growing up, who do not even understand the ethos and values of the liberation struggle. Why can we not use the War Veterans Association to be the one to distribute the inputs to them while Government allocates that?
Continued next page