AT the Defence Forces Day commemorations held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe — who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces — presented a raft of offers to the military in a move meant to cheer and pacify them, but we all know that given the socio-economic situation in the country this will not happen in a long time.
One is tempted to believe that such sweet, but cheap, talk, is simply meant to appease the armed forces who, just like every other poorly paid Zimbabwean, have been struggling to put food on the table.
But, of course, it makes sense to dangle the carrot to the security services because once they become unhappy, the consequences are too grave to contemplate.
We know there are various housing projects being spearheaded by the government around the country and if there was sincerity in Mugabe’s speech, many of the members of the security services would have benefited a long time ago.
The fact that Mugabe offered to resuscitate housing programmes for soldiers at this particular time raises eyebrows.
Mugabe’s offer is an open secret that this is just meant to boost the soldiers’ morale ahead of crucial elections next year.
Every Zimbabwean knows that the security sector has in the past played a critical role during Zanu PF campaigns and we have reported before how, in many rural outposts, soldiers have been used to ensure that villagers toe the line by voting for Zanu PF, failure of which punishment would be meted out to them.
The very things that Mugabe touched on — medical support, housing, salaries and allowances — are what every Zimbabwean, whether in the armed forces, civil service or private sector, desires to have.
But accessing these has become next-to-impossible, thanks to the Zanu PF government’s failure to run the economy in a manner beneficial to all Zimbabweans.
Basic rights have almost been elevated to the level of privileges that only a chosen few can access.
While we applaud Mugabe for remembering the need for such issues to be dealt with, we will hold him to his word and, hopefully, during next year’s Defence Forces holiday, he will sing from a different song book.
While still at it, Mugabe should also ensure that these concerns are addressed across the entire civil service, and not just to the security services.