War Veterans demand dues in forex

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — War veterans are demanding monthly pensions in foreign currency arguing the Zimbabwe dollar has become worthless.\r\n

Velaphi Ncube, the Bulawayo war veterans’ association spokesperson, said deepening poverty had forced the ex-combatants to ask government to consider converting their allowances to more stable foreign currencies.

"War veterans made a lot of sacrifice during the liberation war," Ncube said. "The government should keep its promises of taking care of war veterans who are suffering because of dollarisation."

The former fighters, who at the height of the violent land invasions called on the Zanu PF government to rename the local currency, saying the dollar was an unwanted colonial vestige, began receiving monthly pensions in 1997 for the role they played in liberating the country.

They are entitled to free treatment at state hospitals, free education for their children at government schools and most of them are owners of prime farms grabbed from former commercial farmers.

But runaway inflation has meant that the value of the monthly stipends they earn in local currency has been eroded, pushing most of them deeper into poverty.

However, President Robert Mugabe who is the patron of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association last week said he was opposed to the payment of salaries in foreign currency.

He said the country did not have adequate foreign currency to sustain the salaries and was in favour of the resuscitation of the Zimbabwean dollar now shunned by most traders.

"The monthly allowances we earn in local currency are now worthless since the local currency is being discarded," Ncube said.

"After consultations with colleagues, we feel that the government should pay us at least US$80 a month in pensions."

Ncube threatened that the war veterans, notorious for leading violent demonstrations in support of Mugabe and Zanu PF, would take to the streets if the government failed to meet their demands or discontinued the pensions.

"Yes we have a new government, but it should continue with the programmes started by the previous government that used to assist us," he added.

"There is no reason why the new government should not pay us allowances in foreign currency and we are prepared for street protests to press for the consideration of our demands.

Public Service Minister, Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro referred inquiries about the veterans’ pensions to Defence Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

"The Defence Ministry is the one that administers the War Veterans’ Pensions Act and it would be best placed to comment about the monthly allowances for war veterans," Mukonoweshuro said. 

Mnangagwa could not be reached for comment. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has on several occasions reiterated that the country is broke and cannot afford lavish spending especially in foreign currency.

Economic analysts trace the root of Zimbabwe’s current economic problems to November 1997 when the war veterans, then numbering about 50 000, arm-twisted Mugabe to award them a lump sum of $50 000 each in unbudgeted funds. SOURCE: The Standard