War vets make fresh demands

In what seems to be payback time for President-elect Robert Mugabe’s landslide victory in the just-ended watershed elections, war veterans will push government to look into their concerns.

Elias Mambo

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, the tough-talking and combative war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda said his Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) will now take its demands to its patron, Mugabe, once he sets up a new cabinet.

“We are waiting for the new government to be put in place, then our concerns can be addressed. We are sure the new Zanu PF government will be able to prioritise our concerns,” said Sibanda who stands accused of terrorising the electorate, especially in Masvingo, way before the polls.

Sibanda, who has been on a trailblazing campaign across the country’s 10 provinces to mobilise war veterans and local chiefs to prepare and campaign for a Zanu PF victory, said since his association had delivered victory to Mugabe and Zanu PF, the next government should now aim at improving living conditions for the war veterans.

Sources say Mugabe, desperate to extend his 33-year rule, had given the firebrand war veterans leader the nod to mobilise support in the provinces as the country prepared for the make-or-break elections in which Mugabe garnered 61% and his Zanu PF party a more than two-thirds majority in parliament.

“We have been on the ground for the past four years in what we termed Operation Kubudirana Pachena, where we have been meeting all church pastors, traditional chiefs and the majority of Zimbabweans, alerting them on the importance of the just-ended elections,” Sibanda said.

“While the MDCs lied that we are a violent organisation, Zimbabweans proved them wrong by voting for Zanu PF. We are happy that we have delivered victory to Zanu PF and this is victory of good over evil.”

The war veterans, who have often been accused of driving political violence, have come to Mugabe’s rescue since 2000 when Zanu PF party structures began to crumble as the MDC gained popularity.

Prior to the elections, the war veterans, often seen as rowdy and Mugabe’s shock-troopers in any election, demanded US$1 billion in fresh gratuities and diamond mining claims in the Marange diamond fields.

In a shock appeal before parliament’s Defence and Home Affairs Committee, some of the ex-combatants’ representatives Shadreck Makombe and Retired Major-General Richard Ruwodo said their 50 000-strong members wanted US$20 000 each, and gem mining concessions in Marange.

In 1997, the war veterans demanded and were awarded a ZW$50 000 gratuity each, triggering a decade-long recession in Zimbabwe. They also led the controversial chaotic land reform programme in 2000.

Insiders said the war veterans, who are treated as a reserve force under the Defence ministry, are also demanding separation of their portfolio from the defence portfolio and the formation of their own ministry, in line with trends in regional countries such as Namibia and Mozambique.