War veterans have claimed that they are still owed about US$18,000 (about P135 000) each from the gratuity deal reached in 1997 and are demanding that the coalition government stumps up the outstanding payments.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans (ZNLWVA) secretary general Shadreck Makombe said the independence war fighters were growing impatient.
“When we were given Z$50,000 each in the 1990s, each war veteran was supposed to get Z$500,000 and by then the Z$50,000 was equivalent to $2,000 while the Z$500,000 was equivalent to $20,000,” Makombe said.
“This means the government still owes each of us $18,000 in gratuity and as liberation fighters, we feel we have been neglected and long forgotten.”
The 1997 gratuity payouts represented a rare capitulation to pressure for President Robert Mugabe and, since they were not budgeted for, came at a huge cost to the country’s economy.
Analysts blame the payments for what came to be known as the “Black Friday” markets crash of November 14, 1997, when the Zimbabwe dollar crashed and lost nearly half its value on a single day.
The stock market was also hit, losing about 46 percent of its value as investors scrambled for cover.
Makombe said ZNLWVA members understood that the government was pressed for cash as the economy struggles to recover but insisted war veterans also needed to be rewarded for their sacrifices in the 1970s bush war for independence.
“We appreciate that our economy is coming from a very difficult situation but at least the Ministry of Finance should do something in recognition of the sacrifices that the war veterans made,” he said.
“It is not that we are after money. We did not go to war for money but the issue of gratuity is the case the world over.
“In fact in the SADC region, Zimbabwe is the only country which is still to really do something in honour of the work done by the war veterans save for the Z$50,000 which we were given in the 1990s.”
He also claimed that the government had failed to stick to the terms of the 1997 deal, insisting war veterans were not receiving several other benefits they are entitled to under the War Veterans Act.
“Under the War Veterans Act (1997), Statutory 280 and 281, we have a wide range of benefits. There is talk of loan benefit, education benefit, gratuity, funeral grant, among others, but as war vets we are not enjoying anything of this except for the Z$50,000 we got in 1997,” he said.