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Mnangagwa moves to pacify uniformed forces

THE setting up of shops with subsidised groceries for uniformed forces in their camps by the government are part of efforts to pacify them, analysts have said.

This comes after Finance minister Mthuli Ncube's recent announcement that uniformed forces will be issued with a card with a credit limit which will allow them to access subsidised shops once a month.

"This is a global norm and we will not be the first to do it, we are just copying.
"Uniformed forces tend to have these shops within their cantonments. It's normal; it's part of the benefits for service.

"The shops in terms of physical structures already exist in the cantonment areas. However, unlike the norm around the world, the prices in these garrison shops are normal, so we want to give a subsidy in those shops," said Ncube.

However, analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said the issue raises eyebrows as it appears like it was done to appease restive soldiers and police who are facing serious hunger.

Political analyst Admire Mare said the move is a result of trying to make the armed forces happy.

"The move sounds to be motivated by the desire to pacify the armed forces. I honestly think the government should make sure such safety nets don't target one group of civil servants. It would have been beneficial for everyone so that the government can cushion ordinary people from the current spate of price increases.

"There is no guarantee that the garrison shops will not be used as a conduit to buy on the cheap and then sell at an exorbitant price on the black market. It sounds like the government is dealing with symptoms rather than real problems at hand," Mare said.

Another analyst, Rashwet Mukundu, said the move shows that Zimbabwe is in deep crisis and President Emmerson Mnangagwa is trying to pacify soldiers.

"There is no doubt that the Mnangagwa regime wants to pacify the military – especially the junior ranks. To me, this tells the story of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Citizens and other civil servants have been forgotten by this government.

"It's sad that the government thinks that junior soldiers need food and do not aspire for other things in life and it's the kneejerk economic intervention that we are getting from Ncube and Mnangagwa that tells a story of paralysis in their thinking. " Mukundu told the Daily News.

Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch Dewa Mavhinga said the government must do the same to all civil servants.

"Every Zimbabwean should have access to affordable goods and to have a decent life, not just uniformed forces. The government must admit failure and stop these desperate measures to pacify soldiers and the police when the entire nation is suffering.

"The blatant attempt to buy uniformed forces with cheap groceries is disgusting and stinks. What about the millions of Zimbabweans who are not soldiers or police? It is beyond shocking that the so-called educated people like Mthuli Ncube come up with these rotten ideas," said Mavhinga.

On Wednesday, Ncube defended the decision to set up the subsidised shops for uniformed forces, which he said was international best practice.

"For the teachers and other civil servants, we have silo shops plus the subsidies on roller meal. These shops have not rolled out fast enough and we are aware of that and that's something we are dealing with. It is not that we don't really care about teachers, nurses we do," Ncube explained.

In December last year, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security services released a report where they cited hunger as the most serious challenge being faced by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and police.

"Rations are mandatory requirement but currently each soldier in Zimbabwe is feeding on 9 rations instead of the ideal 51 ration items per day. The nine ration items per soldier per day translate to $54,98 per soldier per day.

"A paltry $103,17 million was allocated for this item is far below the minimum requirement. It means that each soldier will survive on 39 cents per day yet each meal is currently selling at an average price of $30.

"Thus, the market price of three meals is $90. This implies that the ZNA soldiers are exposed to intolerable hunger which affects the training and skills development programme and compromises the soldiers' discipline," read part of the report.

The parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security services added that the police are equally affected by hunger.

"Treasury allocated approximately $51,5 million for rations against an ideal requirement of $1,7 billion. Travel expenses (both domestic and foreign) were allocated $79,7 million against a bid of $110 million.

"Implication: Police training and skills development will not be finished since these expenditure items are part of institutional provisions and are integral to police training and development," part of the report read.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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