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THE cash-strapped government last month blew $2 million to fund President Robert Mugabe’s three-hour meeting with war veterans at a time Treasury owed over $23 million in school fees for the former freedom fighters’ children, it has emerged.
Initially, the indaba, held on April 7 at City Sports Centre in Harare, had been allocated $250 000, but the bill mysteriously ballooned to $2 million.
War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube told journalists in Harare yesterday that his ministry had to divert part of the $6 million reserved for school fees to bankroll the indaba on the understanding that Treasury would reimburse the money soon after the meeting.
“We were allocated $6 million by the Ministry of Finance to meet school fees needs for our members and due to financial problems, Treasury allowed us a bit of money from that allocation and it is from that money that we took $2 million to fund the indaba,” he said.
Dube said the $2 million was spent on accommodation, transport, decorations and food for the nearly 10 000 participants at the meeting.
Dube said Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had committed to reimburse the $2 million into the school fees fund soon after the meeting, but was yet to do so.
“We know he is going to make it so that we will be able to meet our fees obligations as directed by President Mugabe. We trust the minister when he says he will pay,” he said.
Dube said the $6 million allocation was meant for the 2016 first term fees, adding it was not sufficient to meet fees of the over 22 500 applicants catered for by the ministry.
He also said government owed schools $23 million in unpaid school fees for children of war veterans stretching over the past three years.
The minister said he was faced with a herculean task after war collaborators and detainees were also directed to his ministry yet resources had been slow to come his way.
Dube said he expected membership numbers to climb to nearly 700 000 including former detainees, which would likely cost government nearly $2 billion in welfare and compensation issues.
He further questioned the age of some of the war collaborators with indications that some of them were just 40 years old, 36 years after independence.
“It would mean they were collaborators at the age of three or four years, and if you raise these issues, you are told all kinds of politics,” Dube said.
At the indaba, war veterans made several demands including tax exemptions, allocation of 10 % shares of companies in the ongoing indigenisation drive and the expulsion of Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Dube said his ministry was only able to deal with the welfare of its members, while the other issues would be directed to line ministries for them to be addressed.
“The issue of the commissariat is a party issue and leaders of the party were there and heard what was discussed. What we are going to do is prepare a report and forward it to relevant ministries and the party… I am sure something is being done about the issues that were raised at the indaba, which include lands and mines,” he said.
So far, Dube said, his ministry had processed school fees applications for 8 300 pupils and disbursed $2,5 million. He said the ministry would disburse fees for another
7 000 pupils by the end of today as he comes under increasing pressure from parents and pupils who want their fees paid.