FINANCE and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube has come under attack for his plan to splurge US$57,5 million on war veterans, a gesture seen as shoring up support for the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of elections expected next year.
Ncube announced that the money would be set aside for the ex-combatants when he presented his 2023 national budget before Parliament in November, but MPs say the largesse was unnecessary as government was struggling to fund social services, with only US$63 million allocated to cater for millions of vulnerable Zimbabweans.
Last week in the National Assembly during debate on the 2023 national budget, Norton legislator Themba Mliswa (Independent) accused Ncube of having misplaced priorities after he set aside $46 billion (US$57,5 million) for the combatants of the 1970s war of liberation.
Mliswa also questioned why the number of war veterans had ballooned over four-fold, from 34 000 in 1997 to 142 000 in 2022.
“The war veterans population shows the highest level of corruption, misinformation and its criminal nature that there is no way war veterans can increase from 34 000 to 142 000 in 2022,” Mliswa said.
“Despite that increase, what boggles my mind is that 142 000 war veterans have been given $46 billion, which is US$57,5 million, 1% of the total budget while social protection has been given $50 billion, which is about US$63 million, 1,12% of the total budget.”
The Norton legislator said corruption and criminal activities had led to a situation where funds meant for real issues have been misused while the fight against corruption suffers.
“This is despite the fact that the Zimbabwe Social Protection Unit is in a dire situation with 3,8 million rural people facing food starvation and 1,6 million facing urban starvation. There are 4,6 million children living with severe acute malnutrition and 4,8 million in need of the Basic Education Assistance Module, known as BEAM,” Mliswa said.
“Therefore, if one is to take into account these allocations, it is fair to argue that the budget is not inclusive and it disregards the plight of the marginalised and vulnerable citizens.”
Recently, government said it was availing mining concessions to the former freedom fighters.
Lands minister Anxious Masuka recently told farmers that war veterans would be exempted from joining the waiting list for land.
The ruling party recently formed a War Veterans League, to bring the former liberation fighters under its purview.
The war veterans demanded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa approves “commensurate benefits”, including loan guarantees and duty-free car imports before they can back his 2023 re-election bid.
A few months ago, government announced that 160 000 war collaborators had been successfully vetted and were eligible to receive payouts after missing out on the 1997 first round of disbursements.
The 2023 national budget was passed last week in Parliament, which means that the allocations will be effected. – News Day