N recent years, debate has raged on the stark contrast between genuine veterans of Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle and bogus ex-combatants who use political power for corrupt self-enrichment.
The NewsHawks (NH) interviewed Gibson Mashingaidze (GM), a retired army major-general. He is now aged 69 and specialises in sugarcane farming on his plot in Buffalo Range in the south-eastern lowveld.
During the 1970s liberation war, he operated as Zanla’s deputy commander in Manica province and his nom de guerre was Gibson Gumbo.
He was deputy commander to the late Paradzai Zimondi, who was buried at the National Heroes Acre on Wednesday this week.
NH: Why did you join the liberation struggle?
GM: The truth is I was baptised into politics when I was 10 years old. I was doing my primary education at Morgenster Mission and the white teachers were very hostile to us and that ignited our resolve to think that we should fight them for us to be liberated.
Zanu PF broke away from Zapu and held its first congress in Gweru in 1963 and its leaders led by Ndabaningi Sithole came to Great Zimbabwe ruins for rituals and I was one of the 12 youths who accompanied them to the ruins and all the rituals were done in my presence.
I completed my primary education at Morgenster Mission and went to Mashoko Mission for secondary education but the situation was the same as white teachers were now more hostile to black students.
I then went to the Posts and Telecommunications Corporation in Harare for cadetship and my tutor, a white man, was not allowing me to come close to him and one day I mistakenly touched him and he released a screw driver at my face and I was injured.
In 1971, I joined the ANC youth with and started campaigning against a nationwide referendum which wanted to remove all voting powers from black people and from that time I looked for ways on how I should join liberation fighters who were now fighting from outside countries.
Hostile conditions from the whites forced many of us to join the liberation struggle. We wanted to liberate the country so that we run our own affairs.
NH: Are you happy with independent Zimbabwe?
GM: We were politically taught that independence is a process, not an event. We were clear that it started with one man one vote before economic freedom.
Our other grievance which pushed us to war was the land issue which was addressed so, partially, I can say I am happy with independent Zimbabwe.
As veterans of the liberation struggle, we are not happy at how both the first republic and the second republic are treating us. As far as that issue is concerned, the government is not recognising war veterans during their lifetime.
Some of us are dying and that is when they are declared heroes but during their lifetime they will be living like beggars. If we compare ourselves with combatants in USA, South Africa, Angola or Mozambique we are far from being recognised by government.
People who did not go to war are the ones who are now getting the lion`s share of the country`s economy while war veterans are struggling to make ends meet. Let me repeat it by saying the government that came into power in 1980 ignored the welfare of war veterans and that is why most of them are bitter.
NH: What bad things were done after Independence?
GM: Why are we working for eight hours per day when the country is poor? We should work on shifts even during the night so that we develop the economy of the country.
We also need to stop corruption but the animal called corruption is in every country but that should be minimal. You know our government commissioned Tugwi-Mukosi Dam without a masterplan and that does not go down well with me.
We are going nowhere, how can a dam of that magnitude become a white elephant if we are serious about our economy?
NH: Going forward, what should be done?
GM: As a nation we need to be united for a common cause. I think the national service programme should be re-introduced so that our children are oriented to love their country first. That should be done without any partisanship like what other countries are doing. We need a complete paradigm shift if we want to get to the next economic level.