Harare - A huge number of Zimbabwe's former liberation war fighters are dying due to neglect by the state, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry for War Veterans said on Monday.

Retired Brigadier General Walter Tapfumaneyi told a press conference in Harare that the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association had failed to adequately represent the former fighters. "They are dying fast and every week we are burying between 15 and 16 and the numbers are increasing because we are failing to provide them with the welfare that is provided for in our laws. They are dying in despair and abject poverty," he said.

He said that Treasury was failing to provide for the former fighters.

"As we die in our numbers, the remaining few must get what they deserve. The law provides for a comprehensive package but Treasury is not able to keep them. We are getting $30 per month and we are supposed to pay rentals and school fees," he said.

He said the Ministry had only managed to pay first term school fees for 22,000 children out of 34,000 and was yet to pay for the second and third terms.

"We have no money, it has not come. We don't pay until we get a grant from Treasury, we have no other source of income and we have not been receiving [our grants]. When the priorities are set, maybe we are not a top priority. That explains why we are not paying fees. It would have been good if we were able to pay the full fess for the first term."

He expressed fear that the ill treatment of war veterans could compromise the country's security.

"War veterans are a national security issue because they may resort to violence because of hunger and we have to ensure that they do not get extreme deprivation," he said.

Tapfumaneyi said his Ministry was working towards uniting the fractious association, saying they wanted to come up with a broader representative structure to lead them as the ZLWVA had failed. He said there were basis for dissolving the association as it had failed to submit a single report to the Ministry of Social Welfare as required by law and did not have a register of its members.

African News Agency