Ministry pushes for review of war veterans’ pensions

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CHENGETAI ZVAUYA

Defence and War Veterans minister Oppah Muchinguri has said the ministry has requested Treasury to review the pensions of war veterans to cushion them against a rise in the cost of living.

War veterans currently get a pension pay-out of ZWL$350 per month but are now seeking to receive pensions that are pegged at the salary of a serving army major who
earns up to ZWL$600 monthly, excluding allowances.

Muchinguri said it was the duty of the State to take care of the war veterans as set out in the constitution.

“The war veterans’ monthly pensions have not been reviewed for a long time and we feel that it needs to be increased in line with the increment that it due to public service members,” she said noting that Zimbabwe’s war veterans were poorly paid compared to their counterparts in the region, especially South Africa.

The request by Muchinguri comes at a time government is proposing a salary increment for all the civil servants to cushion them against the recent price increases.

Muchinguri’s deputy Victor Matemadanda said the ministry has asked Defence permanent secretary Mark Grey Marongwe to take the matter to Parliament.

Last week, Marongwe appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs to speak on the welfare of war veterans asking for a review of their pensions.

The country currently has around 35 000 war veterans and Marongwe told the committee that the youngest war veterans or war collaborators would, therefore, be around 55 to 60 years now.

“Our pensions review tribunal has consulted relevant authorities and agreed on the policy of indexing war veterans pensions to the grade of a Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) warrant officer, so that whenever their salaries are reviewed, the war veterans’ pensions are also reviewed,” Marongwe said.

“Currently, the pension of registered war veterans is $350 and that of ex-detainees is pegged at $317 and the amount they are receiving is too little for them to survive and efforts are being made to lobby for a reasonable and meaningful increase and hence the ministry is proposing for an increase of the pensions from that of a retired warrant officer to that of a retired ZNA major,” he said.

Marongwe also told the committee that there will also be need to increase school fees assistance for children of war veterans which currently ranges from ZWL$2 000 to ZWL$4 000 per term and is bench-marked against the most expensive government-owned school,
Prince Edward.

“We are currently investigating the possibilities of increasing school fees benefits so that they match the current demands in the country where many boarding schools are now charging fees in excess of ZWL$6 000 to ZWL$8 000 per term and war veterans are now required to raise money to top up school fees,” he said.

Marongwe said there were anomalies existing in legislation where the law currently recognises war veterans, but liberation war collaborators and combatants in transition or non-combatants were not recognised.

Government has had a love-hate relationship with the former freedom fighter. In 1997, the war veterans drowned out former President Robert Mugabe’s speech at the National Heroes Act forcing government to dole out ZWL$50 000 each to the former freedom fighters using unbudgeted for resources.

Muchinguri also said government has to lift the job freeze in the army because there was an urgent need to replace some of the ageing soldiers and others who have retired.

“We have not had any new recruitment for the past three years and we are asking government to lift the freeze on defence forces. Most  of our soldiers are retiring and some have died. We need to replace them” she said.