r veterans blocking roads and processing along Samora Machel Avenue, smashing cars and shop windows, and storming Mugabe’s office – leaving a trail of destruction in their wake – with Chenjerai Hunzvi frothing at the mouth and demanding that they be paid for their role in liberating this country 17 years before.
By doing this I felt they cheapened their noble and heroic role as liberators of their country. We all paid a price for our country – naturally some paid more than others – but it was never counted in hard cash. Our reward was our independence.
What happened as a result? The payout immediately led to a crash of the Zimbabwe dollar, which had managed to hold steady for a very long time prior to that fateful day.
The economy has never recovered from that day.
Three years later they were at it again. This time invading farms, murdering people, and generally destroying or looting everything that moved.
During the 2000 general elections, they allowed themselves to be used once again by Zanu (PF) to do the dirty work – intimidate, thrash, rape, torture and terrorise the general populace just in case anyone had any intention of supporting and or voting for the opposition MDC.
This resulted in the world refusing to recognise the results of that election. Even our own High Court nullified several of the results because there was ample proof of wholesale intimidation.
Then the government forgot them again, as it had done for 17 years prior to 1997. But now with the winter of discontent looming, they find their services required once again by Zanu (PF).
By the way, isn’t it remarkable that the number of war veterans (established officially in 1980 as being around 50,000) has remained more or less static all these years? – despite the national HIV/AIDS pandemic that has claimed the lives of millions of Zimbabweans over the past two decades. The other remarkable thing is that these very war vets seem to get younger and younger by the year. They must be taking something really powerful zhing-zhong elixir of youth that is denied to the rest of the population.
Once again the call has gone out from Shake-shake house that the 50 000 gallant war vets will now be incorporated into the regular army. What about paying them? Well, of course, we all know about Mugabe’s voodoo economics and that wonderful machine at Fidelity Printers that can churn out bearer’s cheques faster than you can say Bob’s your uncle!
I must say I’m surprised that these aged veterans can even contemplate starting a new career in the army at this stage of the game. They must have been at least 20 years old in 1980. Which means the very youngest of them are now 46. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe these days is 37 for men – so that means all are well past their “Sell by” date. And I’m sure they are tired as well. And don’t forget, just about every one of them is disabled. Remember when they were all examined by Doctor (or was that nurse?) Hunzvi for payouts from the Compensation Fund? (The trouble was, most of the chefs beat them to it.)
Anyway, I would be the first to admit that these comrades have had a raw deal. But to be recruited into the dad’s army at this stage must surely be the toughest blow of all.
BY MAGAISA IBENZI
WARD 12, PARIRENYATWA HOSPITAL, HARARE - Am I the only one who believes that the war veterans, whom we have always regarded as our liberators, have now been turned into a destructive force?
When I look back over the years, back to 1997/98, I remember very well hordes of wa