By Austin Karonga

A FORMER Zanla combatant Marshall Rex Sibanda is set for rich pickings after the High Court directed Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri to register him as an ex-combatant and pay his benefits backdating to 25 years ago.

Sibanda told the court that he was vetted in 1997 and issued with a war veterans’ card as proof of his successful vetting, but he was yet to reap any benefits.

The former Zimbabwe Republic Police member, who served the force for 26 years, said he crossed into Mozambique to participate in the liberation struggle.

According to an official letter of August 28, 1992, Sibanda could not make it into the Zimbabwe National Army owing to disability as he was demobilised in Chitungwiza in the 1980s. At the time of his injury, he was a battalion commissar.

However, the respondents, ministry of Defence and the War Veterans Board, filed their opposing papers, disputing that the applicant went through any military training and as such does not warrant any war veteran entitlement nor benefits.

They claimed that the applicant was vetted by a board of war veterans and was unsuccessful.

Justice Emilia Muchawa ruled that Sibanda was a war veteran.

““In my considered opinion, this matter is to be resolved by determining whether or not the applicant meets the definition of a war veteran as provided in the Act. That is the starting point…from the facts, it is common cause that the applicant crossed into Mozambique in order to join the liberation struggle in 1976,” said Justice Muchawa.

“The letter from Zanu PF refers to the applicant as a Zanla ex-combatant who went to Mozambique in 1976. The respondents argued that the letter does not prove that he received military training at all. One has to necessarily interrogate the word “ex-combatant…it means any combatant who has been disarmed, demobilised and registered. The letter from Zanu PF, therefore, implies that the applicant was an active participant in the military activities of Zanla as part of the military. 

“It supports the applicant’s case and the war veterans’ card issued to him goes to prove that he was then accepted as an ex-combatant. The two letters from the army serve to show that the applicant is an ex- Zanla combatant.

“I dismissed the application for the matter to be referred to trial on the basis that the arising dispute was not material to the issue at hand as there were sufficient documents on record to enable the court to determine the matter and cognizant of the need to bring finality to litigation. I agree with the applicant that the document provided by the respondents is not a register at all. The name alleged to be those of the applicant do not match his, Though the national registration number matches his that is insufficient in the circumstances of this case.”

She dismissed the respondents’ claim while hitting them with costs.

“It is ordered that the applicant be and is hereby confirmed by this honourable court to be a war veteran…the respondents shall within seven days of service of this order upon them, register the applicant on the war veterans register,” read the judgement.

“The respondents shall pay the applicant all the benefits due to him, but not limited to monthly pension, school and college fees and tuition on production of invoices, from the date of his registration as a war veteran in 1997 to date.

“The applicant seeks confirmation that he is a war veteran…and further that he be awarded all pensions and benefits from the date he was vetted and certified a war veteran and issued with a war veteran’s identity card.”