FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday revealed that the Defence ministry is failing to feed and clothe its personnel and that the soldiers living in the barracks were surviving on two meals a day, while having to content with one uniform.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Ncube was defending his budget allocation of $546,9 million to the Defence ministry and $517,8 million to the Home Affairs ministry, bringing the combined allocation to security apparatus to slightly over $1 billion.
In the past, the two ministries have been given the largest chunk of the budget, but this year, Ncube allocated the Primary and Secondary Education ministry more than $1 billion.
In an interview with NewsDay on the sidelines of a post-budget Press briefing, Ncube said he had allocated a non-wage linked budget of $160 million and $86,2 million to the Defence and Home Affairs ministries, respectively, to cater for maintenance of equipment, facilities, training and development.
“This allocation is small; we have a situation where we have our military personnel at times having two meals per day instead of three; our police officers failing to attend to crime scenes because they do not have transport and other equipment to use. So we need to capacitate them,” Ncube said.
Ncube said Defence, Home Affairs, Education and Health are people-centred departments that need more funding.
“These are ministries that have to do with the social development of our people. If a police officer does not have the means of getting to a crime scene, even if you report, it would be of no value, hence we gave them this amount,” Ncube said.
In his budget presentation, Ncube said the economic crisis had taken a toll on the defence and law enforcement agents, affecting their duties.
The minister last week presented a $8,2 billion budget, which sought, among other things, to promote production, cut public expenditure as well as support international re-engagement efforts.
Ncube said the budget which is yet to be adopted by Parliament, has seen President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his two deputies taking a pay cut of 5%.
“Well, we might give you the figure of how much would be saved from the 5% pay cut, but the idea here is the political will by the President and all of us to take these austerity measures. The number of people who will be affected by this could be small; it is the will by President ED Mnangagwa to take the initiative which is very important. For every measure to succeed, we need to have political will,” Ncube said.
Also announced in the budget was the establishment of a road fund to assist road accident victims and it was to be funded by third party insurance undertaken by motorists.
Finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga said at least $3 million was envisaged to be mobilised from insurance companies and a board was yet to be set up to administer the fund.
“The board will come up with further modalities on how and when an intervention would be made in the event of an accident. Maybe the board may actually recommend that government comes in and assist in funding and so on and so forth,” he said.
The Treasury bosses also warned pharmacies that are still demanding foreign currency that government would withdraw their licenses or stop allocating foreign currency to private players as a way of protecting ordinary citizens. Guvamatanga said authorities were contemplating channelling funds to NatPharm for the procurement of drugs and in the process drive out private players.