The revelation was surprising because the defence ministry had recently demanded $2.5 million from the treasury, insisting the funds were needed to feed soldiers who are going hungry in the barracks and to pay for an additional 5,000 new recruits. Mnangagwa went as far as threatening violence, vowing to send army generals to Biti’s offices.
As it turns out the soldiers had already been recruited without going through proper procedures. Biti said the illegal recruitments were made between January and May this year, adding approximately $190 million to the civil servants’ salary bill. The Finance Minister added that the treasury is receiving only $230 million and money promised from the sale of Chiadzwa’s diamonds had not yet been received.
The issue of unaccounted diamond revenue has been at the centre of a row between the coalition government partners, with the MDC-T insisting that the military is controlling diamond mining and most of the funds do not make it into national coffers.
Harare based journalist Angus Shaw told SW Radio Africa that although it remains to be seen why the army would need so many new recruits, the talk on the ground is that they are part of ZANU PF’s strategy of using patronage to gain support. They want to appear to be giving jobs to these young Zimbabweans as part of their empowerment policy.
“Defence Minister Mnangagwa has admitted they were under qualified and it appears they may have gone through training at the ZANU PF youth militia camps. It is very much to bolster the numbers of the army and use patronage by giving these young men jobs,” Shaw explained.
Regarding diamond revenue, Shaw said it is no secret that diamond mining is being controlled by former military chefs and ZANU PF politicians who are living openly lavish lifestyles. “We know diamond revenue is being stashed away in private accounts in Dubai, Mauritius and the British Virgin Islands and so on,” he added.
Asked whether ZANU PF made a mistake by letting an MDC-T minister control the treasury, Shaw said the voices are being heard but there is no equal power sharing, so the MDC-T is unable to do anything to change the situation.
He added: “It seems that every government institution controlled by ZANU PF is doing pretty much what they want, functioning unilaterally. Biti has long suggested a system be put in place for collecting diamond revenue but this has been fought by ZANU PF.”
Political analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga said he did not think the government would actually let soldiers starve in the barracks, but believes something else may be happening that the defence Minister is not able to publicise.
“I believe threats by Mnangagwa to send army generals to attack Biti are just grandstanding because they would not need instructions from him if they were really hungry. They would have gone to demand the money already,” Mhlanga said.
Mhlanga pointed to the fact that Biti was made the villain when civil servants demanded salary increases last year, and any segment of society demanding money is going to blame Biti if they do not get it.
“This is a strategy to create hatred against the Finance Minister and therefore his MDC-T party as well,” Mhlanga added.
Biti has been strong in arguing that until diamond funds are remitted into the treasury, the government cannot afford any increase in the public service salary bill or recruitment of new army cadets. SW Radio AfricaPost published in: News