We are being mistreated say Heroes’ widows

While President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party officials live expensive lives with top of the range vehicles and mansions, families of liberation war heroes are languishing in extreme poverty.

Irene Marange - We are being mistreated.
Irene Marange – We are being mistreated.

Some families of fallen liberation war commanders, who were declared national heroes, have nothing to show for the sacrifice of their loved ones in fighting the country’s liberation. They have to make-do with a paltry $100 monthly Widows’ Pension Fund. As Zimbabwe commemorates Heroes’ Day this year, the plight of national heroes’ widows is heart-rending. The majority of them are surviving on crumbs while Mugabe and his cronies live in luxury. “I have every reason to be bitter given that government is paying us a $100 monthly pension,” said the wife of the late Zipra commander, Lieutenant-General Lookout Masuku.

Abject poverty

While Masuku played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle, his family is living in abject poverty. “I have struggled over the years to make ends meet but nothing has come up,” said the widow, who now ekes out a living by using her sewing skills and operating a flea market stall in Bulawayo.

“We are being mistreated. The money that we are receiving as pension does not match the immense contributions made by our husbands who risked their lives at the war front,” she said.

No school fees

“We are facing serious hardships, we cannot afford to pay electricity and water bills, let alone put a decent meal on the table. We hustle, but we are living in poverty.” She urged the government to prioritise the plight of war heroes’ families.

Sikhumbuzo, the widow of Cain Nkala, the former chairperson of the Bulawayo war veterans, appealed to government to increase their allowances in line with the poverty datum line as they were currently starving.

“As we celebrate Heroes Day, government needs to look into our plight as life is now unbearable for us,” she said. Skumbuzo added that some of the heroes’ children have dropped out of school due to their failure to pay school fees.

Irene, the wife of late hero George Marange, said after 34 years she was still striving to own a piece of land with very little success.

“Yet these are the very things my husband went to the struggle for. Why sacrifice your life for so many years in the struggle only for your wife and children to be the last if not the least people to access the benefits?” asked an emotional Irene.

“How much is the monthly allowance of a widow? How many allowances do some of our leaders have? How many widows own a piece of land? How many farms do some of our leaders own? How many widows own vehicles? How many vehicles do some of our leaders own?” she asked.

New Ministry

Mabvuku-Tafara Member of Parliament James Maridadi has called for the established of a fully-fledged Ministry of War Veterans because some of them are living in desperation and are being insulted.

He cited the example of Debra Cele, wife of national hero Cephas Cele whom he said lived in his constituency but did not have a house of her own.

The widows agreed that the government was failing to fulfil its promises and called for the revival of the Zimbabwe War Veteran Board. In the early 2000 a war veterans’ board was formed where the late Solomon Mujuru was the chairperson while Dumiso Dabengwa was the vice-chairperson of the board.

Its functions were aimed at taking care of widows and their children and dealing with war veterans’ problems.

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