President Mnangagwa challenged the former fighters to scale up mobilisation to enable Zanu PF to reach its five million votes target while the government also dangled a number of freebies to the ex-combatants including special treatment from councils and allocate of land for housing and commercial purposes.
Critics, however, accused the ruling party of selfishly abusing the former freedom fighters to stay in power while some freedom fighters have said it is unfortunate that ‘bona fide’ veterans were languishing in poverty due to the same governance system, which required their services.
In an interview with CITE, a former member of the ZANLA High Command, Bernard Manyadza, whose nom de guerre was Parker Chipoyera, said they fought for everyone’s freedom, not one entity.
“Our bigger role and historical mission was fighting for freedom, that’s why Zambians and Tanzanians gave us names in their languages calling us freedom fighters. We were fighting for freedom, never fighting for a political establishment or a political party. In other words we were not party militia,” he said.
Chipoyera said it was sad to note that veterans were still fighting for freedom as Zimbabwe was yet to attain “complete freedom.”
“I will refer to what Mdala Wethu (the late nationalist, Joshua) Nkomo said that a nation can be free from colonialism but not its citizens, specifically pointing out the freedom deficit in our nation,” he noted.
“This call for veterans to assist a political party, literally reduces the freedom fighters to party militia, which we are not.”
The former ZANLA fighter highlighted it was ‘very’ unfortunate that due to “increased poverty” amongst the rank and file of ex-combatants, some individuals may be coerced to act under Zanu PF’s instruction.
“Unfortunately, this may attract some former freedom fighters because they will want those freebies and then form the role of party militias,” Chipoyera said.
But Chipoyera pointed out that concerned war veterans would not participate in such programmes, considering how some have been ridiculed by the same state.
“There are a number of comrades who have been arrested for expressing an opinion that they want their pensions re-examined. About 40 comrades are still going to court for that, the same comrades who have been humiliated are now called up to assist this elitist political establishment. What an anti-thesis!” he remarked.
The former fighter warned that by making a public call to veterans, it gave Zanu PF a diversion to form militias that would be terrorising people.
“The long and short of it is that Zanu PF will be inviting anybody who is their militia to terrorise people, under the guise of war veterans. When true war veterans are not involved,” Chipoyera said.
“I call upon genuine war veterans not to be reduced to be party militias. We are fighters for freedom for the whole nation, not for a political party, more so more so when the political establishment has hijacked the revolution.”
Chipoyera lamented how the founding values they fought for have been forgotten by the elitist state.
“They have relegated former combatants to misery and poverty, such that the same combatants who are asking for their pension, which was one of the agreements of the Lancaster agreements, are hated. Veterans were given $50 000 but now are hated by the whole nation because they say the comrades’ pensions caused inflation,” he said.
“This is actually a tactic of setting war veterans against the nation. In the same way, war vets spearheaded the land reform exercise but received no back up at all. They are now the laughing stock while occupying that land. Nothing is coming their way in terms of affordable loans and farm machinery but you find these have been given to elitists. In other words this regime uses war vets for their own selfish ends. This is objectionable and we regret it.”
A former ZPRA female fighter, Zodwa Ncube, concurred that veterans went to fight for the collective national interest not to be used by one political party.
“We went to war to liberate the whole country, not to fight for one political party or choose one political party. Although as ZPRA fighters we were under ZAPU, we were not taught that if we win the liberation war and achieve independence, we would campaign for a political party. Former soldiers were not told to campaign for one party because that would be threatening to civilians,” she said.
Ncube said war veterans, having experienced the liberation struggle, were supposed to promote peace and be conflict solvers.
“We advise each other as war veterans. It’s unfortunate that other people have jumped into politics but some of us know our values. As former ZPRA fighters, we speak one word and that is peace,” she underlined.
The former ZPRA fighter noted that poverty had seen some veterans ‘agree’ to become state machinery against civilians in return for benefits.
“I don’t know if it’s poverty or the struggles we have faced that war veterans end up used!” Ncube said.
“Specifically as former ZPRA fighters, we have an arm of peacebuilding where when there is conflict we preach peace. Anyone must be free to choose a party they want. They must be free to do that. We always say to people that in the ballot box, no one sees who you voted for so people can choose their own party.”