SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Chiwenga in War Vet Vote Buying Bid

In an apparent signal that election fever is heating up, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga recently promised to pay the war vets $2,000 a month between January and September next year.

Reports in the media Friday quoted Chiwenga saying the money would come from the Marange diamond fields and investment in the Lupane gas project, which government is moving to embark on with Russian investors.

The ZDF commander made this pronouncement while addressing over 800 war vets at One Brigade Headquarters in Bulawayo three weeks ago. Our correspondent in Bulawayo, Lionel Saungweme, told us most of the war vets who attended the meeting belonged to ZIPRA, the former armed wing of ZAPU.

'The war vets were surprised Chiwenga came up with this promise, knowing there was an election due next year, but he has not bothered to enquire about the welfare of the former combatants who have been struggling to make ends meet,' Saungweme said.

The former combatants said if Chiwenga is serious about his promise, he should ask the government to enact such an arrangement into the ZDF Act, which administers war vets affairs, so it becomes law.

Saungweme explained that most of those who attended the meeting were more concerned with the return of the ZAPU properties that government confiscated just before the start of the Gukurahundi massacres.

These properties include numerous farms, houses and central business district office buildings that the war vets want returned to them. They intend to use the properties for income generating projects.

In 1997 the government made its first unbudgeted payment to war vets, and it was one of the disastrous economic decisions at that time that caused the Zim dollar to crash and lose over 80% of its value against the US dollar. Economists blamed the effects of what is now historically known as 'Black Friday' on the Z$50,000 monthly payments made to vets and the country's involvement in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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