Harare – Zimbabwe's war veterans have demanded to be paid at least $500 000 each, which could cost the country up to $17bn - about five times the nation's 2016 National budget of $3.6bn, a report has said. According to NewsDay, they were about 34 000 registered war veterans remaining in the country.The former freedom fighters' demand came as President Robert Mugabe's government was struggling to pay civil servants' salaries.Apart from the money, the war veterans also demanded diplomatic passports so that they would not be subjected to "rigorous checks at border posts".They said this during a meeting last weekend, which was attended by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and War Veterans Minister retired Colonel Tshinga Dube. Sekeramayi allegedly refused to make a commitment, promising, however, to consult Mugabe before giving them a response.The constitution According to a report on Thursday, Tshinga described the war veterans' demand as "wishes for dreamers". "...We do not have to worry about what everybody says, as it is not policy and it is something that someone dreamt about... The constitution makes it clear that the government has a duty to ensure war veterans get their benefits, including medical treatment and school fees. However, the question of the $500 000 each has never been an issue or government policy" Dube was quoted as saying.Meanwhile, according to Voice of America, expelled Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson Douglas Mahiya confirmed that the former fighters signed an agreement with Mugabe in 1997.The "deal" according to Mahiya, was for each war veteran to receive $50 000 at the time and then another $500 000 each back-dated to 1980.Mahiya, however, said that he was not sure how the money was to be paid out now since the country did not have its own currency.Zimbabwe's economic crisis has worsened this year.