21 February 2014

Zimbabwe: War Vets Demand Sugar Plots As Reward

Chiredzi — AFTER successfully campaigning for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF resulting in a controversial victory during last year's harmonised elections, it is now pay back time as former freedom fighters are demanding rewards in form of sugar cane plots.

The war veterans in Chiredzi, the country's sugar plantations, have asked government to give them a bigger share of the 10 000 hectares which may be expropriated from South African sugar milling giant - Tongaat Hullet.

The veterans claim they were promised the land during the election campaigns last year and had met Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantine Chiwenga several times where the issue has been discussed.

War veterans' spokesman for Masvingo province, Ezra Charinda, who is based in Chiredzi confirmed having held a series of meetings with the army chief.

Charinda, spokesman of the war veterans said they were "not demanding but were just asking" what was promised to them during the run up to the July 2013 harmonised elections.

"I am surprised if you say we are demanding because we are not demanding", said Charinda.

"This has been on the table and we are just saying let us have what has been on the table", he said.

"Since we are regarded as a reserve force falling under the Ministry of Defence we held a series of meetings during the run up to the polls with army chiefs including Chiwenga and this was tabled as one of our benefits if our party and president won the polls," he claimed.

Charinda said it is concerning that after 34 years of independence some former freedom fighters were still land less.

"We have some of our comrades who toiled during the liberation struggle and are still without land can't you see that it is unfair", he said.

Chiwenga could not be reached for comment.

Zanu-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, said he was not aware of such demands by the former freedom fighters.

War veterans national leader, Jabulani Sibanda, said although he was not aware of such demands, war veterans must be honoured for supporting the party.

"As war veterans we believe we have to be thanked for the good work we do for the party and this might be in form of land or plots," said Sibanda.

However the demands by the former freedom fighters have come at a time when Power and Energy Development Minister, Dzikamayi Mavhaire, who is a senior party member in Masvingo province under which Chiredzi falls has urged transparency in the distribution of land especially plots for sugarcane production.

Mavhaire, somewhat contrary to the party's stance, said that all Zimbabweans should benefit equally from the land distribution and not specific interest groups.

"We have to make sure that this issue of sugar cane plots is handled in a good manner where those who already have farms should wait for those who have not benefited to get something," he was quoted as saying WHERE WAS HE QUOTED?.

"It does not make any sense to give sugar cane plots to those who already have some. If we do that as a party it will be a clear case of corruption", he said.

The government through the Masvingo political leadership intends to take over 10 000 hectares of land from Hippo Valley arguing that the company under-declared its land.

The government also claims that the company had pledged to share some land with locals and hence should honour the pledge.

Masvingo political leadership, led by Provincial Affairs Minister, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, has formally approached government to be given the land.

A response is yet to be made.

War veterans are notorious for the land invasions that started in 2000.

The land invasions led to the controversial land reforms critics argue led to a decline in commercial agriculture and incessant food shortages.

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