PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe who declared that interment at the National Heroes Acre is for Zanu PF members only, is failing to adequately look after families of the heroes, whose surviving spouses get a monthly allowance of $26 and $5 per child below 18 years.
In a response to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Social Services, Lancaster Museka, said in addition to the monthly allowances, government pays school fees of up to $270 per term per child in primary and secondary schools and $405 for tertiary education.
He said the ministry was currently providing allowances for 500 widows and 200 children under the National Heroes Dependants Fund
“The widows are getting $26 monthly allowance and $5 for the children below the age of 18,” Museka said. “The National Heroes Dependants Fund pays for school fees for fallen heroes’ children. Currently, the children that are in primary and secondary have a school fees allocation of $270 per term and exam fees. Those in universities (tertiary education) get a semester allocation of $405. In cases of health problems the department of social welfare services assists the dependants with an Assisted Medical Treatment Order. With this order they can access treatment in government hospitals.”
Analysts and some heroes’ relatives said the amounts were too low considering the sacrifices the heroes made for the country and the mileage Zanu PF gets using their names.
Museka admitted the money was too little, saying this has at times prompted complaints from the beneficiaries.
“Complaints will always come but currently there hasn’t been much that can be done as the economy is recovering from a meltdown which saw most of the social services being affected,” he added. “Efforts are being made to improve the monthly allowances of the dependants to a reasonable rate.”
Recently, the wife of national hero Josiah Tongogara, Angeline, met Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seeking assistance.
She ranted at journalists saying that: “My husband died 30 years ago. Why did you not bother to find out how I am surviving? Do I not have a right to visit these offices?”
Angeline is reported to have complained in the past about government’s failure to adequately look after her family despite her husband having played a critical role in the liberation of Zimbabwe.
However, Museka said with what the ministry was doing, it would be unfair to say they have been neglecting the families of the heroes, but admitted that the rates for their monthly allowance should be revised.
“From the above, one cannot say that they are being neglected but rather the rates for the monthly allowances have to be improved to meet daily needs of the dependants. This will be done as the economy improves,” he said.
In a statement earlier this year, MDC-T expressed dismay on how some dependants are forgotten after the death of their spouses. They gave an example of the late Ntombiyelanga Takawira, the wife of the late national hero Leopold, whom they said died a pauper in January this year and was conveniently conferred national hero as a last resort.