MORALE has reportedly hit rock-bottom in the army as the country’s soldiers wallow in poverty and are having to make do with inadequate rations and uniforms, NewsDay can report.
This was revealed by Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri while making a presentation at the 2023 Parliament pre-budget seminar in Harare yesterday.
Muchinguri-Kashiri blamed the problems being faced by the army on poor budgetary allocations over the years, saying the allocations were failing to sustain soldiers’ welfare at the barracks.
This is despite the country’s successive national budgets since independence in 1980 having prioritised the Defence ministry. It is one of the top three ministries which always receives the biggest chunk of the national cake.
The army also runs its own private companies that generate revenue.
Muchinguri told legislators that under-funding from the fiscus had negatively affected the ability of the army to carry out its mandate.
On rations, Muchinguri said soldiers were supposed to be getting 53 items, which had, however, been reduced to only five.
“Let’s invest in our defence forces. My ministry is facing a lot of challenges, and we have inadequate accommodation to keep our forces in the barracks. If we are adequately provided for, I can assure the nation that we will keep ourselves in the barracks,” Muchinguri said.
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“What we see in the current situation is that our forces are renting accommodation in the townships, and they are often given names because of inadequate and indecent accommodation —let alone transport, which they also hire. They are insulted on a daily basis. They sometimes go without food and even uniforms, and these are constitutional requirements.
“Their food items have been reduced. Sometimes they have only sadza and beans. This is a serious situation we are faced with. My fear is that these are young people who sacrifice to create this conducive environment for us to enjoy peace. We appeal for funding from you,” she said.
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe also said the situation was equally bad for the country’s police service.
“The police force situation is very desperate,” he warned.
“You should actually be thanking the police that we still have sanity and tranquillity in our country because of the situation these men and women are going through.”
Zanu PF’s Buhera South legislator Joseph Chinotimba warned the ministers to remember that their security was being provided by disgruntled officers, adding that the situation was a national security threat.
Parliament’s Defence Committee chairperson Levi Mayihlome (Zanu PF) added: “The military salary concept should be approved. War veterans are languishing in poverty too. Government should ensure that law enforcement agents — soldiers and police — are paid and are accommodated well. Most police vehicles are grounded due to lack of spare parts. There is gross disgruntlement over the police transport allowances.”
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (Independent) questioned prioritisation of scarce resources pointing out that while critical services were underfunded, government still managed to find money for ministers’ vehicles and housing loans.
He claimed that ministers had two government issued luxury vehicles, adding that they were also given US$500 000 housing loans each.
Last year, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs also produced a damning report which warned that the police force was underfunded.
“There is dilapidated institutional and residential accommodation, poor ablution facilities resulting in officers opting for the bush system, obsolete office furniture, inadequate tools of trade, use of ineffective policing equipment which is inconsistent with contemporary policing technology, and inadequate transport and fuel supplies,” read the 2021 report of the Defence and Home Affairs committee read.
In 2020 during the pre-budget consultations, the Defence and Home Affairs committee produced another gloomy report, which stated that the country’s soldiers were marching on empty stomachs.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic downturn in a decade, with its year-on-year food inflation recently adjudged to be the highest in the world at 353%, followed by Lebanon at 240%.