By Leopold Munhende
ALL uniformed forces will from next month be allowed to buy government subsidised basic commodities within their residential camps or barracks as part of government efforts to cushion them from the harsh effects of the country’s worst economic crisis in a decade.
This was announced by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa during Wednesday’s Post-Cabinet Media Briefing in Harare.
Mutsvangwa said ‘garrison shops’ would be set at each camp or barrack in the country.
Poorly paid soldiers, police and prison officers can hardly cop with the effects of the worsening crisis in the once prosperous country, an economy characterised by high prices, shortage of basic goods and devalued salaries.
“Cabinet resolved that garrison shops be established to enable all members of the defence forces who would be on the fund to have the additional benefit of accessing subsidised basic commodities that will be sold in specialised shops located within their cantonment areas,” said Mutsvangwa.
She said members of the uniformed forces would be issued with special cards that allow them to purchase goods once a month.
Defending the programme, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the initiative was international practice.
“This is a global norm, we would not be the first to do it. In fact, it has taken us so long to do it. It is normal, it is part of their benefits and employment conditions,” said Ncube.
“We want to be able to give a subsidy to those who are in the uniformed forces so that we can improve the purchasing power of salaries. All we are trying to do is improve the conditions of service of all our civil service.”
The controversial move could be viewed in the context of growing disgruntlement within the country’s security forces who have endured the country’s harsh economic crisis for long.
This week, exiled former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo made claims the Zimbabwe military was angling for a Mnangagwa ouster, citing his poor track record as President and the worsening economic conditions.
“A coup against Mnangagwa remains possible; especially one from the lower and middle ranks of the military who are experiencing the same hardships that are destroying the livelihoods of ordinary people,” said Moyo.
“But such a coup, although quite possible, is unlikely because the generals are aware of its possibility and have been working very hard to suppress it by all sorts of means, including running ahead of it by piling pressure on Mnangagwa to persuade him to go peacefully or risk being removed violently.”