By Albert Nxumalo
Veterans of the Liberation struggle on Wednesday piled pressure on the cash-strapped government by demanding medical treatment in private hospitals outside the country and pensions that at par with the lowest-paid civil servant.
They also demanded that 20 % of civil servant jobs be reserved for their children, 60 % of land to be distributed should be set aside for them, given diplomatic passports and exempted from paying duty at border posts.
This came out during a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services held a public hearing at Entumbane Community Hall on the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill.
More than 100 former liberation fighters attended the hearing.
According to the bill, its purpose is to provide for rights and benefits of veterans of the liberation struggle and dependents to provide for their establishment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Fund, to provide for the establishment of the Veterans Liberation Struggle Board, its composition and function.
Chairman of Bulawayo War veterans association legal technical committee Blessing Kundlambe said most of their members are in bad health and struggle to access medical facilities.
“We demand that the government should foot the bill of our members who will seek decent medical care in private hospitals outside the country with the assistance of the Ministry of Defence.
“Our children, some with degrees are struggling to secure employment so we demand that in all government ministries employ 10-20% of our children”.
The demands come at a time when the government – which is struggling to pay civil servants – is in a deadlock with its employees over salaries government workers want to be indexed to the US dollar exchange rate.
War veterans said it was grossly unfair that some senior government officials who are not war veterans are well taken care of by the government.
“We want our members to also access medical care locally, given free access in private hospitals. Members of Parliament have perfect medical care cover but we don’t, why? We are now old. We need to be well taken care of by the government,” said Jabulani Petshu Sibanda.
Andrew Ndlovu, a popular war veteran leader said the vetting process was discriminatory.
“The non-combatant term in the bill is all wrong, most of our members did not train but were in camps. We are all freedom fighters”.
War veterans said it was taboo for them to be vetted by a government worker who might be too young in age to grasp war issues.
“Section 8 of the bill makes us uncomfortable. Most fighters who went to war are above 60 years now.
“The power of the vetting officer in the bill should be changed. We cannot be vetted by a 25-year-old government worker, a person who was not born during the struggle.
“They are too young to comprehend issues. People who were in the operations zones should be tasked to vet the fighters,” added Kundlambe.
Some of the demands put forward include decent accommodation in growth points and urban areas, pensions above the poverty datum line and free education for their children and war veterans who wish to study, free legal representation and medals for Zipra combatants.