THE cash-strapped government has purchased new vehicles for army lieutenant-colonels at a time the Public Service Commission is struggling to pay its 550 000-strong workforce resulting in the staggering of June salaries, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
By Elias Mambo
The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) distributed new Foton single-cab vehicles sourced from China to lieutenant-colonels last week on Wednesday.
ZNA director public relations Lieutenant-Colonel Alphios Makotore confirmed the purchase and distribution of the cars to lieutenant-colonels.
“Yes, the army received some new vehicles and they were distributed as per the requirement,” Makotore said.
“On the number of lieutenant-colonels, the army does not publicise the strength of its personnel as such information is not for media and/or public consumption.”
The vehicles are manufactured by Foton Motor, a Chinese company which designs and manufactures trucks, buses, sport utility vehicles and agricultural machinery. It is headquartered in Changping, China.
Government last week wrote a memo to civil servants advising of new pay dates. The army’s pay dates were shifted from June 14 to June 27, while salaries for the education sector were shifted to July 7. The health sector will only receive salaries on July 14.
“The cars were delivered on Wednesday last week. All lieutenant-colonels were allocated cars,” said an army source.
Newly promoted lieutenant-colonels were part of the group, which received vehicles.
President Robert Mugabe in March promoted 37 army majors to the rank of lieutenant-colonels.
In January, he promoted three colonels to the rank of brigadier-generals and 19 lieutenant-colonels to full colonels.
Despite the country experiencing severe economic challenges, the government has continuously spent big on the army, which has played a critical role in propping up Mugabe over the years.
In July last year, the government acquired 633 vehicles, which included all-terrain troop-carrying trucks, water cannons, buses and equipment, mostly used by the military and police worth an estimated US$50 million from India’s Ashok Leyland.
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.
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 military is credited with masterminding Zanu PF’s brutal 2008 presidential election run-off 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.
Addressing war veterans in April, Mugabe admitted for the first time that the army had been critical in ensuring he and Zanu PF won elections.
He also revealed he extended the military bosses’ contracts ahead of the 2013 general elections so that they assist Zanu PF to win elections.