October 8, 2005

Ex-detainees to be recompensed / Protests by army and air force

The Zimbabwean government has announced it would pay compensation in 2006 to thousands of people who were locked up by the Rhodesian regime during the country's liberation war in the 1970s. "Every ex-political prisoner, detainee and restrictee shall be paid a gratuity of 6-million Zimbabwean dollars (about R1 500), payable only on or after January 1 2006," said the government in its official gazette. Thousands of political activists were detained, in some cases for years, under the rule of Ian Smith before independence in 1980. The announcement of payments came after years of lobbying by former political prisoners who said they were left out of a benefit scheme for veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. The former detainees demanded compensation for the disruption they suffered during their detention. In 1997, Zimbabwe gave in to demands by war veterans for pensions and benefits for their participation in the war against British colonial rule and the Smith regime.
In the meantime, the Zimbabwean army and air force have been hit by protests over the government’s failure to increase their salaries as well as chronic food shortages at their barracks. Military sources said that soldiers were increasingly unsettled by government’s refusal to increase their salaries and provide adequate food supplies to the 40.000-strong army.
Sources said army commanders have in the past two weeks been battling to assure soldiers the situation would be attended to as soon as possible. It is said some troops have been detained at 2 Brigade barracks in Harare in connection with "indiscipline" related to agitation for salary increases. Senior army commanders have been telling soldiers to channel their grievances through proper structures instead of engaging in "unruly campaigning" which could easily be interpreted as "mutiny". (The Star, South Africa / Business Day, Johannesburg)

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