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Bill to reward ex-political prisoners, detainees sails through
Posted: Monday, November 1, 2004

Herald Reporter

AT least 6 000 ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees will be rewarded for their contribution to the liberation struggle following the passage of a Bill in Parliament paving way for the Government to render them assistance.

The Bill sailed through Parliament last Thursday and will become law once President Mugabe assents to it.

In a rare meeting of minds, both ruling Zanu-PF and opposition MDC legislators backed the proposed law, saying it was long overdue.

Debating the Bill on Tuesday last week, Rushinga Member of Parliament Cde Lazarus Dokora (Zanu-PF) said the Bill was noble.

He urged the Government to commit adequate resources for the welfare of the ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees.

Bulawayo South MP Mr David Coltart (MDC) said the white population in Zimbabwe was responsible for the injustices, including torture of incarcerated political activists, that occurred during the liberation struggle.

"As a white Zimbabwean, I find it shameful that it was whites who were responsible for this. It is a shameful chapter in this nationís history," Mr Coltart said while making his contribution to the debate.

"Successive white minority governments subjected blacks to torture. We are responsible for this situation that has led to this Bill," he said.

But the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Cde Paul Mangwana, said the confession by Mr Coltart was not enough as it should have included the part which he played personally in the torture of former freedom fighters.

Cde Mangwana was steering the Bill.

The assistance by the State to the beneficiaries will be in the form of one-off payment gratuities, educational and health benefits.

The Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare will determine the amount of gratuities to be paid to the ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees.

Under Clause 2 of the Bill, an ex-political prisoner, detainee or restrictee is a person who, after January 1, 1959, was imprisoned, detained or restricted in Zimbabwe for at least six months for political activity in connection with bringing about the countryís independence.

The Government will provide destitute former political prisoners, detainees and restrictees with some means of subsistence to cater for their basic needs.

Assistance may also take the form of grants or loans for income-generating projects or grants for physical, mental or social rehabilitation or for acquiring vocational or technical training.

Schemes established in terms of the Bill permit differential treatment between ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees.

Although every person who qualifies for registration will be registered, only those in need of assistance will benefit from the proposed schemes.

Thus, the schemes will carry out means-testing for evaluating the ex-political prisoners, detainees or restrictees before they are considered for assistance.

There shall be a committee of the board responsible for vetting the ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees.

It will be composed of members from various ministries responsible for social welfare that include Home Affairs, Defence, Justice and the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Dishonest conduct in relation to the receipt of assistance under the proposed law will constitute an offence.

A person will be liable to refund any form of assistance received by him or her if he or she was not entitled to such assistance.

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