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GOVT Funding Crisis: Soldiers fed sadza and beans, publicly ridiculed – says defence minister; police situation desperate, warns home affairs colleague

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By Anna Chibamu

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WATCH: MTHULI’S ZVAKARONGEKA CLAIM

 

THE dire state of government finances has now come into perspective with Cabinet ministers warning of crisis situations in key security services such as the military and the police as Treasury swung the axe, massively reducing their budget requests for 2023.

Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube famously claimed that “zvakarongeka (our finances are in order)” during an interview, and the treasury boss and his team often flaunt their prudent management of public finances, regularly pointing to claiming budget surpluses.

However, ongoing Parliamentary consultations for the 2023 national budget held in Harare at the weekend, heard otherwise from no less than Professor Ncube’s cabinet colleagues.

Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Home Affairs colleague Kazembe Kazembe lamented the dire state of affairs in the security services.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said the poor budgetary support for the ministry had resulted in soldiers being the subject of public ridicule and insults.

Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri

“Soldiers do not have adequate accommodation; they need to be in barracks,” said the defence minister.

“They are given all sorts of names, they use public transport, they are insulted on a daily basis and whilst on duty, they sometimes go without food.

“On the food items they are supposed to be getting 53 items but this has been reduced to five items only. Soldiers were going for Sadza and beans without cooking oil daily.”

Home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe 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 provide by these disgruntled officers, adding that the situation was a national security threat.

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“You are all being guarded by these security forces,” said Chinotimba.

“A soldier is the last person to defend the country. Let us be serious. You cannot feed a soldier with beans. Kuhondo taiti Gandanga haridye derere mukoma! Vapeyi mari kubva nhasi!”

Parliament’s Defence Committee Chairperson’s 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’ salaries – soldiers and police – are remunerated and accommodated well.

“Most police vehicles are grounded due to lack of spare parts. There is gross disgruntlement over the police transport allowances.”

Independent Norton legislator, Temba Mliswa 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.

Norton member of Parliament Temba Mliswa

He claimed ministers had two government issue luxury vehicles, adding they were also given housing loans of US$500,000 each.

“Ministers no longer care for the people because they were given loans amounting to half a million United States dollars to buy houses and cars,” he said, further accusing top government officials of corruption.

“There is no collaboration in government. July Moyo is spending devolution money willy-nilly. He is taking Chiefs’ money. Who is he!? We tired of July Moyo? We do not want to see him.”

Despite the concerns raised by Ministers, Treasury still swung the axe and massively reduced the funding bids by government departments for 2023.

The defence ministry had its budget reduced to $226 billion from the $800 billion the department had asked for.

For the public service, Treasury approved $87 billion, against a bid of $657 billion, while higher and tertiary education will get $99.4 billion, down from the requested $176 billion.

Sports minister Kirsty Coventry also complained that, “our budget is underfunded. We are calling for treasury to consider an upward review of our request.”

Her ministry’s bid was $340 billion but treasury put a ceiling of $11.7 billion.

Speaker Jacob Mudenda challenged Parliamentary committees and government departments to come up with domestic resource mobilisation strategies to help alleviate poverty across the country.

“We are expected to propose strategies to push the masses out of poverty and offer solutions for our country’s most pressing challenges,” he said.