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Clandestine army recruitments poser

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Finance minister Tendai Biti’s revelations that government has recruited 10 000 workers illegally between January and May are a crude reminder of the leadership deficit afflicting Zimbabwe today.

The recruitments have increased the government wage bill to $190 million a month in a space of five months against revenues of $230 million. The move exposes the lack of co-ordination within the coalition government.

Biti warned that the move also spelt doom to the underperforming 2012 National Budget of $4 billion, which he will be forced to slash considerably next month. According to the minister: “The two chief culprits are the Ministry of Defence, which employed 4 600 personnel since January 2012, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has recruited 1 200 personnel without Treasury approval.”

The clandestine recruitment of soldiers had pushed the army’s budget to $15 million a month, he said.

Such extravagance is mind-boggling for a country that has for the past four years been battling to recover from a debilitating economic meltdown. The inclusive government has been struggling to pay its workers a decent wage, with most of them — including soldiers —
getting an average of $300 a month.

These wages are way below the poverty datum line estimated at over $500 and have been a source of unrest in the civil service for some time now, but some in the inclusive government want to act as if it’s business as usual. This has also compromised the quality of public service, as civil servants spend more time scheming how to survive instead of
working. Moves to add extra personnel outside agreed frameworks surely puts paid to civil servants’ hopes of a meaningful salary review any time soon.

The revelations come at a time when the nation is waiting to see how the inclusive government will deal with the 70 000 ghost workers that were found to be on its payroll by the 2010 Ernst &Young audit.
It is quite clear that these recruitments were done for political expediency and it would be difficult to reverse them any time soon.

That the bulk of the illegal recruitments were done by the army and police raises questions about government’s commitment to economic recovery. The fact that the Zanu PF-controlled ministries of Defence and Home Affairs were the worst offenders will raise questions as to whether this is not part of another dirty election campaign strategy.
If that is the case, it would once again expose Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone (MDC-T) as a lame duck in that portfolio.

We doubt that there was any urgency to recruit so many soldiers in such a short space of time when our leaders claim that Zimbabwe is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Did Makone consent to these appointments?

The army is battling to feed and clothe the men and women already in service. It therefore begs the question: What necessitated the need for extra soldiers? This goes way beyond the sort of natural attrition you find in all armies obliging governments to recruit where there is a need.

All parties in the inclusive government must put people first and for once stop serving their narrow interests.

President Robert Mugabe must show leadership and give Biti the necessary support he needs to manage the National Budget and spur the much-anticipated economic revival.

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