THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces is splashing millions of United States dollars on 12 fighter jets, 220 luxury vehicles and spare parts even though it has been inactive in the first half of the year.
The latest acquisitions, which inc
lude already delivered six K-8 fighter jets, come against a backdrop of the army battling to meet its Chinese contractual obligations. The army also needs nearly $1,2 billion (in new currency) to fund other operations.
Appearing before the parliamentary committee on Defence and Home Affairs, Defence permanent secretary Trust Maphosa, accompanied by Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga and Airforce chief, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had given the ministry US$8,6 million to buy jets and cars.
According to manufacturers of the K-8 fighter — developed by China and Pakistan — a new K-8 jet costs US$20 million. A list presented by Maphosa indicates that the army intends to purchase 220 vehicles that include 10 Prados, 65 Mazda Familia sedans, three Mercedes Benz E200 and two E 280 saloons, five rigid buses, and 105 Mazda B1800 pick-up vehicles.
“We have managed to buy 127 staff cars in the Mazda range with 57 of them having been delivered. We managed to pay some of the foreign currency to Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries,” Maphosa said.
Figures supplied by car dealers put the cost of the vehicles at above US$3 million. They put the cost of a single Toyota VX Prado at US$56 000, a Mazda B25 000 twin-cab at US$17 456, a B25 single cab at US$10 700, and a Mazda Familia sedan at US$12 000. The RBZ allocated about US$1, 3 million for spare parts.
Maphosa said the RBZ had released US$4,7 million for aircraft, US$2 668 264 for spare parts and US$1,3 million for vehicles.
“We are grateful to the RBZ governor who provided US$2 668 264 for the procurement of aircraft spares. Regular maintenance of weapons systems is being undertaken,” Maphosa said.
Doling out money for these purchases belies the commonplace shortage of fuel for commerce and industry due to a foreign currency crunch.
“From January to May nothing was happening. The army was not active. We had money for salaries and rations only,” Maphosa said. — Staff Writer.