FORMER liberation war fighters yesterday said they had been reduced to beggars by the country they helped liberate, but will still celebrate Heroes’ Day today.
Report by Pamela Mhlanga
In Bulawayo, the celebrations to mark Heroes’ Day will be held at Nkulumane Provincial Heroes’ Acre.
War veterans interviewed by Southern Eye bemoaned the state of the local heroes’ acre, which is rocky and unkempt.
Former Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association secretary-general Andrew Ndlovu said it was disheartening that war veterans were not being respected despite having gone through hardships to liberate the country from British colonial rule.
“We understand Heroes’ Day, and of course we celebrate ours, but ironically we are still struggling and we are still wallowing in poverty as war veterans,” Ndlovu said.
“We are pained so much by the fact that we are still struggling to survive and put food on the table for our families when we are supposed to live comfortably and also drive cars like others.”
He said Zanu PF had failed to address the plight of war veterans, but had only managed to discriminate between Zipra and Zanla veterans for their political mileage.
“We are not being treated equally as war veterans. One may discover that there are many comrades wallowing in poverty and living in rural areas while a few are in power and always exchanging fancy cars,” Ndlovu said.
Retired colonel Thomas Ngwenya, a Zapu official, said he could not celebrate Heroes’ Day whole-heartedly, saying a lot of things had not been handled properly.
“We are beggars in our country as if we never fought in any war,” Ngwenya said.
“We are not being taken care of especially us the Zipra cadres from the southern region and this is a sad reality.”
He said it was disturbing to note that the welfare of war veterans was not being addressed unlike in other countries.
“In other countries, war veterans are treated as equals and given the respect and honour they deserve as people who played a very important role in liberation struggles such that even children admire them,” Ngwenya said.
“But it is not the same here. While we commemorate Heroes’ Day, I am definitely not happy.”
Maxwell Mkandla, a war veterans leader, said Zimbabwe must celebrate its heroes while they were still alive.
“A hero is not only a fallen person, but includes heroes that are still alive,” he said.
“This event would be a non-event if we are celebrating only those who are dead, but we have not done anything for suffering war veterans.”
He claimed that more than 1 500 former liberation veterans had not been vetted and were not receiving any benefits.
MDC-T national spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said while his party recognised the need to honour true heroes, it was approaching the day with a very heavy heart.
“We are honouring the heroes who fought for the country so we could have free and fair elections, but it is sad to note that this independence has been hijacked by crooks,” he said.