MASSIVE corruption has been unearthed by the Ministry of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, ex-Political Detainees and Restrictees with the Government having paid more than $150 000 in school fees for non-existent children of war veterans in Harare Province last year.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Retired Brigadier-General Walter Tapfumaneyi revealed the details at a Matabeleland regional war veterans meeting at Stanley Square in Bulawayo yesterday. The meeting was for war veterans from the three provinces of Matabeleland namely Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South. He said the issue of school fees was the biggest challenge in the ministry.
“Where there is money there are challenges all the time. Take for instance we did a sample in Harare Province in 2015 for 40 percent of the schools that we pay students school fees for and we realised we paid US$156 000 for children who do not exist, ghost children.
“At Inkomo Barracks School, Sergeant Majors and Captains and the district executive for Zvimba connived that children who pay US$87 pay US$300. They were sharing that money, as managers we deal with such issues but you find that such corruption affects comrades who will not have done wrong. Some after paying they would go and marry many wives yet children have no school fees,” said Rtd Brig-Gen Tapfumaneyi.
He said this was the reason why the ministry was now intervening in those issues as they want all children to rightfully benefit.
Rtd Brig-Gen Tapfumaneyi said one war veteran has for the past 14 years been collecting school fees for a child who has since stopped schooling while another is now a flight-lieutenant at the Air force of Zimbabwe.
“War vets, our wives and our children by law benefit from school fees payment in our midst, if one wants to do a doctorate they can apply and we pay if funds permit. The challenge is that this money is not coming. The only cash we received was $6,4 million which was used to pay part of school fees for term one. We did not finish paying the school fees as we were instructed to take some funds to host the meeting we had with the President. We used US$2,4 million which has not been returned.
He went on. “We were promised US$6,4 million which has not come which was meant for second term fees, another US$6,4 was further promised to us and we have not seen it yet.”
As the ministry, he said at one time their bank account had only $30. “Comrades were dying each day and they needed funds and we had nothing to offer. Some would come with the coffin and corpse at our offices and demonstrate. We do not pay anything when Treasury does not disburse funds as the ministry has no other source of income besides Treasury grants. School fees is owed for all terms this year. From 2013 before this ministry was set up we had a debt of $19 million and it has since ballooned to $22 million because they are failing to pay in some instances.
“Last week we signed for $3 million that we received that we will pay for some students. But we can’t pay for all of them,” he said.
Some war veterans are reportedly abusing the medical fund.
“A person goes to the hospital for blood pressure and diabetes, these are serious illnesses if they are complicated but are generally manageable. One came with a prescription of $458 yet they had been charged just $48 and the rest of the money was for sexual enhancing drugs,” said Rtd Brig-Gen Tapfumaneyi.
He also alleges that one war veteran approached him wanting to connive with him over cancer treatment which was going to award him $28 000 per month and then they share the spoils but he dismissed the issue and reported the matter. Rtd Brig-Gen Tapfumaneyi said it was cases of fraud, double dipping and false claims that they were dealing with that were letting the system down.
During the emotionally charged meeting that lasted more than five hours, Cde George Mlala of the Council of Elders was heckled by fellow war veterans who said they were against his leadership. They said they were in a position to choose a leader for themselves and would not allow someone who is being imposed. Some called Cde Mlala a sellout who was tearing the party, Zanu-PF and the association apart.
However, War Vets Minister, Rtd Colonel Tshinga Dube said war veterans can only be listened to if they are united.
“If we fight as a united people no one can divide us, we will also be listened to effectively when we are one. We cannot fight over non-existent things and people will thrive on our disunity, we cannot have factions at all because we are losing our respect,” he said.
Rtd Col Dube acknowledged that their needs were not being met to a greater extent because of financial challenges across board. Widows of war veterans also expressed dismay over the $113 that they ere receiving each month. Minister of Defence Cde Sydney Sekeramayi, who also attended the meeting, told the war veterans that they were free to approach Government to have their problems solved.
“Welfare of war vets such a pensions, education, land and health should be looked into. We have it at heart that you have challenges and we will solve them as we go. There may be delays but we will look into it,” he said.