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War vets demand parliamentary seats

Constantine Chimakure

WAR veterans backing President Robert Mugabe to remain in power are lobbying Zanu PF to introduce a parliamentary quota system for the ex-combatant

s ahead of next year’s harmonised local government, legislative and presidential elections.

Sources in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association said the Jabulani Sibanda-led organisation wanted the ruling party to have the quota system in place arguing that they have been marginalised for too long.

The association is at the forefront of drumming up support for Mugabe to be endorsed as Zanu PF’s 2008 presidential candidate at the ruling party’s special congress to be held in Harare in December.

The association has held several solidarity marches backing the octogenarian leader.

“The ex-combatants want to use their current closeness to President Mugabe to push for the quota system,” one of the sources said. “They want a certain percentage of the House of Assembly and Senate seats reserved for them. They are yet to come up with a figure.”

The sources said Zanu PF’s politburo, the highest decision-making body outside congress, will meet on October 24 and would, among other things, deliberate on the war veterans’ request.

“The war veterans issue will be deliberated on during the politburo indaba. The ex-combatants are of the opinion that it is high time they are well represented in parliament,” another source said. “They think that from the few ex-combatants in parliament or cabinet, they have not done enough to represent them. War veterans want to be accorded the same status as women.”

In 2004, Zanu PF introduced a 30% parliamentary female quota system — something the party’s women’s league had been fighting for since 1999.

Veterans vice-president Joseph Chinotimba yesterday said it was mere speculation that the former freedom fighters would push for the quota system.

“As far as I know we are not for the quota system. It is just speculation,” Chinotimba said. “Whoever wants to be a legislator must be elected by the people after following laid down procedures.”

He said there was no need for special circumstances for war veterans to gain legislative power.

“Admittedly, war veterans are an integral part of Zanu PF, but when it comes to elections we are all equal to other members,” said the self-styled commander of the 2002 land invasions. “Why should we need the quota system? Don’t try to influence general members of the party to fight war veterans.”

In 1997, the association forced government to pay about 50 000 war veterans a one-off $50 000 each in compensation for participating in the liberation struggle. It also managed to coerce the government to pay the combatants monthly pensions.

Meanwhile, Zanu PF has embarked on a re-branding exercise as it prepares for next year’s elections.

Party insiders said Zanu PF was in the process of coming up with a manifesto and a theme for the 2008 elections.

“Printing of party regalia will be done soon,” a source said. “We expect to have the manifesto and theme of the elections ready by the time we go to congress.”

Nathan Shamuyarira, Zanu PF spokesperson, was quoted in the party’s official mouthpiece, The Voice, this week saying he was working on the manifesto.

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