THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) will soon receive an additional 240 vehicles purchased from Indian automobile company, Ashok Leyland Ltd, as the cash-strapped government splurges its meagre financial resources on the security establishment at a time it is struggling to meet critical obligations, it has emerged.
The Zimbabwe Independent understands that out of the new consignment, nearly 90 of the vehicles will be allocated to lieutenant-colonels and senior army chiefs. The remainder will go to different military units.
In July, as first reported in the Independent, the government acquired 633 vehicles, which included all-terrain troop-carrying trucks, water cannons, buses and equipment, mostly used by military and police worth an estimated US$50 million.
Ashok Leyland was awarded the contract for supply of the vehicles by Zimbabwe, including military and police vehicles.
The contract was financed by India’s Exim Bank through its buyer’s credit facility under national export insurance account to the tune of US$49,92 million extended to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
Under the contract, Ashok Leyland, besides supplying the vehicles, will also provide training to Zimbabwe’s technical staff in operation and maintenance of the military vehicles.
Government officials said this week that the vehicles, including the latest batch, were purchased through the Tourism ministry under the disguise of promotion of domestic tourism and supporting international tourism, disaster management, anti-poaching activities, peace missions and other related purposes.
A military source said some of the new vehicles would be used to fulfil a backlog in the allocation of cars to lieutenant colonels and other senior officers.
“The cars are expected within the next two weeks. The army will receive 240 and from our understanding 90 will be allocated to lieutenant colonels and other senior officers,” a senior military officer said.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi yesterday said he could not comment on the matter as he was on study leave. He referred questions to Lieutenant Colonel Luckymore Mukurazhizha who said she was in Kariba, before promising to call back although she had not done so at the time to of going to press.
Written questions to the army’s public relations department were also not responded to.
Since the 2013 general elections, the government has been buying military equipment as it secretly bolsters its instruments of repression to combat any possible Arab spring-style uprising due to the explosive socio-economic situation in the country.
Government has also been ensuring that senior army officers are well catered for as part of Mugabe’s patronage system which ensures he has a grip on securocrats, who form one of the pillars of his rule.
The security sector plays a critical role in propping up Mugabe’s regime, particularly during elections. The military is credited with masterminding Zanu PF’s brutal 2008 presidential run-off poll campaign which saw Mugabe retain power after his fierce rival, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the polls citing violence and intimidation.
Army personnel also took charge of Zanu PF primary elections in 2013 with some officers actively involved in drumming up support for the party by among other things engaging chiefs on its behalf.
After the 2013 elections the army, intelligence and police bosses got new cars, while they bolstered their instruments of repression by purchasing anti-riot gear and equipment, trucks and armoured vehicles worth millions of dollars at a time Treasury is broke.
Ministers and senior civil servants have also been getting new cars regularly.
In May, Mugabe commissioned 97 vehicles at a Zimbabwe Republic Police pass-out parade at Morris Depot. Among the vehicles were 20 buses, all-terrain troop-carrying trucks, water cannons and ordinary trucks.
The acquisition from Ashok Leyland, the second largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in India, fourth largest manufacturer of buses in the world and the 16th largest manufacturer of trucks globally, has further reinforced the army’s arsenal as fears amount that a popular uprising due to the economic implosion and mounting social unrest cannot be ruled out.
The company also manufactures defence vehicles, including a wide range of automobiles from rapid intervention vehicles, field artillery tractors, light recovery vehicles, water bowsers, truck fire fighters and fuel dispensers.
In 2012 the ZDF acquired about 1 000 vehicles worth about US$45 million.