President Emmerson Mnangagwa said pensions and allowances for veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war would be increased, days after government announced a 10% hike in salaries for all public sector workers.
Veterans play a key role in the ruling ZANU-PF party’s election machinery and have in the past been at the forefront of mobilising party supporters. They have also been accused of unleashing violent attacks on the opposition.
The country is due to hold elections in July, although Mnangagwa has not yet set a date.
The extra money for the more than 30,000 veterans comes at a time when government is hard pressed for cash and has already faced strikes by nurses and doctors.
Critics see the move as a reward from Mnangagwa after the veterans openly resisted the elevation of former leader Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace to the presidency and backed Mnangagwa to take over from the 94-year-old.
“My government made a decision to increase allowances and pensions for all veterans and put in place the requisite safety nets to cushion you with regard to your daily needs,” Mnangagwa told thousands of war veterans in Harare.
He did not give details of the scale of the increase. Government also pays school fees and provides funeral cover for veterans, whose current monthly pension and allowance comes to around $200.
Former combatants often complain they are side-lined from senior posts in government.
War veterans in November 1999 forced Mugabe to give them unbudgeted pay-outs after they marched to his State House offices resulting in the Zimbabwe dollar plunging 71% in value on a day that came to be known as “Black Friday.”