Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has described as a national shame that successive governments have neglected the country’s freedom fighters that are now living in abject poverty after sacrificing a lot in liberating Zambia from colonial rule.
Dr Mwaanga said it was saddening that Zambia’s post independence Minister of Commerce and the last secretary general of UNIP Grey Zulu had not been paid his benefits long after he had left public life.
He said Mr Zulu among other freedom fighters was sacrificed a lot and deserved to be looked after reasonably for the balance of their lives.
Dr Mwaanga appealed to government to pay attention to the plight of the people who helped Zambia break the yoke of colonialism.
He said it was important for government to assist freedom fighters in a reasonable way to avoid destitution.
Dr Mwaanga said countries like Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa had found means of looking after their freedom fighters and advised that Zambia should emulate its neighbouring countries by paying its senior citizens such as Mr Zulu.
“It is a national shame that freedom fighters should be subjected to live in abject poverty after sacrificing a lot for the liberation of the country from colonial rule. I am deeply saddened to hear that Mr Grey Zulu who is among the many freedom fighters is suffering after selflessly serving the country. There must be a way of looking after our freedom fighters so that they can live a reasonable life for the balance of the years they have remained with. Something decent should be done for them and I believe they are not many and Zambians would not mind giving them something that would make them live happy in their remaining years,’ Dr Mwaanga said.
Dr Mwaanga said he was aware that the Freedom Fighters Association had been formed and that its chairman William Chipango together with Josias Chisala had been writing letters to government appealing for assistance but that their plight had not been taken seriously.
He said it was depressing that both the previous and the current governments had not paid attention to the plight of the freedom fighters.
Dr Mwaanga recalled that during President Rupiah Banda’s government, efforts were made to see how best the freedom fighters could be assisted to move them from desolate lives.
He said President Banda (former) had initiated discussions in all the provinces on how best to look after freedom fighters but that after he lost power in 2011, the process had been abandoned.
“It would be a good thing if this government could revisit the discussion process that had been initiated by President Banda so that a solution could be found to help the freedom fighters. I hope this government will pay Mr Zulu and many other freedom fighters because they sacrificed a lot for the country. We really need to assist our freedom fighters like Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are doing,” Dr Mwaanga said.
Mr Zulu has complained that successive governments have failed to pay him his retirement benefits and that his efforts to compel government to pay had been systematically obstructed.
And Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection executive director Leonard Chiti has said that it was unjust for a freedom fighter in the name of Mr Grey Zulu not to be paid his terminal benefit despite serving the nation in important position.
Fr Chiti has advised government to avoid being narrow minded and reflect on Mr Zulu’s great contribution to the liberalisation of the country.