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A case for our defence forces

Orpah Muchinguri

DEFENCE and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri made very disturbing  comments this week on the situation in our army barracks where hunger has apparently set up base.

Contributing to the 2023 Parliament pre-budget consultations underway in Harare, Muchinguri-Kashiri said: “My ministry is facing a lot of challenges, and we have inadequate accommodation to keep our forces in the barracks . . . What we see in the current situation is that our forces are renting accommodation in the townships, and they are often given names because of inadequate and indecent accommodation — let alone transport, which they also hire. They are insulted on a daily basis. They sometimes go without food and even uniforms, and these are constitutional requirements.”

This is very well and good coming from the horse’s mouth because if some of us “loud mouths” had broken the news that our soldiers are literally starving and making do with faded uniforms which is a serious embarrassment for our well-acquitted defence forces, we would have been immediately lynched.

While the Defence minister’s assertion that soldiers are not being allocated enough resources in the national budget maybe on point, we, however, dare ask: Why are the funds allotted to the soldiers inadequate in the first place when this country is evidently so rich that feeding, clothing and housing the country’s army should not be an issue?

Is the size of our national cake not enough to cater everyone, including the soldiers, or does this not speak to problems in revenue generation; or maybe the country is raising enough, but somehow the Treasury’s basket is leaking like a sieve?

Or worse still, we are getting our priorities utterly wrong.

Whatever the case, we, however, sincerely believe that Zimbabwe has enough resources in the form of minerals such as gold, platinum, chrome, lithium, diamonds et al to afford everyone a decent life.

If the country, for instance, produced US$5,1 billion worth of minerals last year and is expecting to net US$6 billion this year; and the bulk of that money is not benefiting the nation at large, is it any wonder that our soldiers are starving?

And if they are so desperate, is it surprising that we are having so many armed robberies linked to some in the army?

If the bulk of whatever we are extracting from the earth is not finding its way into our national coffers, what is the point of continuing to mine the minerals?

And if the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority tells us every year that it is surpassing revenue targets, why is the country getting wrong such basics as adequately catering for critical sectors such as the army?

So if we dare to aver that the corruption scourge is behind our failure to feed the soldiers, would it be far-fetched? If it is, indeed, far-fetched, can someone prove to us that it is by schooling us on the issue?

We are heartened that at least Muchinguri-Kashiri did not make even slight reference to sanctions having anything to do with this, which means that definitely it’s more to do with the manner our national cake is being distributed.

The Treasury basket is definitely leaking and this is threatening the very survival of, not only our defence forces, but of us all, especially when we know that the army also has serious revenue streams from companies such as the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, partnerships in the Marange diamond fields and farming joint ventures with the Chinese.

If all the revenue from these ventures was properly accounted for, would our defence forces not be sitting pretty?

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