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Urimbo a fast-track hero

Mayor Urimbo may have been completely forgotten by his colleagues in the ruling party after being removed from his powerful post of national political commissar but he certainly made history at his death.

He became the first politician to die and be declared a hero the same day without the powerful politburo or even cabinet having to sit down first.

This clearly indicated how powerful he was. Some argue that it was out of a guilty conscience for neglecting the gallant fighter that the ruling party made the hasty decision to declare him a national hero, thus ensuring that his family would, at least, have something to survive on, under the Heroes’ Dependants Act.

All the same, his death opened old wounds and sparked debate about how badly some of the ex-combatants were being treated, especially the less educated ones.

Sources say, there is growing discontent among the ex-combatants who are demanding a distinction between freedom fighters and ex-combatants because they believe it is the freedom fighters, most of whom were representing the party in Western capitals or were even studying at universities, who have benefitted most from the liberation struggle.

There are increasing calls that ex-combatants, those who actually went into the battlefield, should press for their own recognition. This has also led to questions about the effectiveness of the War Veterans Association which some are now saying has been hijacked by politicians.

The party leadership seems to be clearly aware of the split that this could cause, because though they may be unemployed (or, if employed they may be getting very little), most of the ex-combatants still wield a lot of power particularly in the rural areas where they once operated.

Even former colleagues of Urimbo, like Emmerson Mnangagwa, had to come quickly to the rescue of the party by giving statistics of how the party had helped Urimbo.

Mnangagwa said the party helped Urimbo buy a house which he resold for $260 000. It gave him a job where he was paid $4 700 a month and was given a full-tank every month.

Some ex-combatants argue that Urimbo sold the house because he was having financial problems and in the end he ended up “squatting” at Landas Farm where he had no title deeds. They also argue that while some of those who were below him in the liberation struggle were driving the latest Mercedes Benzes, Urimbo was still driving an old Toyota Corolla he brought from Mozambique 14 years ago.

One of the most outspoken critics, Margaret Dongo, insisted that politics should be kept out of the War Veterans Association. She also alleged that the so-called vetting exercise was misguided because it was being used to deny help to those ex-combatants who had left to join other parties because they were disgruntled.

“It is none of our concern that some of the comrades joined other parties. We should remember what they did during the struggle…. Everyone claims that he also contributed to the struggle,” Dongo told Parliament.

“There are people here who contested elections on behalf of other parties. I have respect for ZANU and ZAPU because we were fighting for the same objective. There are people sitted here (Parliament) because they are related to the leadership. But there is a time when the truth will be told.

“There is a problem. We were brainwashed during the struggle because we were told that a chef is a chef and that he is never wrong. Now we have begun to realise that he can also be wrong……”

This kind of talk can only gain Dongo support, especially from the former ZIPRA combatants who got a raw deal from the government and the party as well. Leaders of the former ZAPU did not do much after their party merged (or was swallowed, as they call it) with ZANU-PF.

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