Zim­babwe army not paid

Armed forces short-changed for a sec­ond month

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - MACDON­ALD DZIRUTWE

HARARE: Zim­babwe has failed to pay the army on time for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive month, un­der­scor­ing the pre­car­i­ous fi­nan­cial po­si­tion of Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment as it faces rare pop­u­lar protests.

The mil­i­tary is paid on the 14th of the month but sol­diers and air force of­fi­cers said they were yet to re­ceive their pay and had not been told when they would re­ceive it. The de­lays could fuel po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in the na­tion, which has been hit by drought, a drop in min­eral prices and chronic cash short­ages – all fac­tors be­hind this month’s protests against 92-year-old Mu­gabe.

“The mood is sour among the rank and file. Life is tough and we are not be­ing told by our su­pe­ri­ors whether we will be paid this month or not,” one pri­vate said.

One colonel said: “We have not been in­formed of new pay dates by the min­istry of fi­nance.”

There was no com­ment from Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pa­trick Chi­na­masa, who was at­tend­ing an AU sum­mit in Rwanda with Mu­gabe. Army spokesman Lieu­tenant Colonel Al­phios Mako­tore could not be reached for com­ment.

There was a two-week de­lay in last month’s pay check for the mil­i­tary, a cen­tral se­cu­rity pil­lar through­out Mu­gabe’s 36 years in charge of the for­mer Bri­tish colony. With­out bal­ance of pay­ment sup­port and for­eign credit, the gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to clear $1.8 bil­lion (R25.8bn) ar­rears to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, African Devel­op­ment Bank and World Bank in a bid to un­lock new fund­ing.

But the IMF said on Thurs­day it was still far from a fi­nan­cial pro­gramme with Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment, which would need to re­solve is­sues of gov­er­nance, ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency and carry out eco­nomic re­forms be­fore re­ceiv­ing any cash. Last week, a “stay­away” protest move­ment led by ac­tivist pas­tor Evan Mawarire shut down most busi­nesses, gov­ern­ment of­fices, schools and hos­pi­tals in the big­gest act of pub­lic de­fi­ance in a decade.

Mawarire, who ral­lied fol­low­ers un­der his #ThisFlag Twit­ter hash­tag, was ar­rested this week and for­mally ac­cused of trea­son but was freed on Wed­nes­day when a mag­is­trate threw out the charges.

Op­po­si­tion leader Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, who is suf­fer­ing from can­cer and who has so far stayed on the side­lines of the protests, pitched in yes­ter­day, say­ing he backed Mawarire and other groups such as Ta­ja­muka (We Refuse).

Ts­van­gi­rai said Mu­gabe should step down to make way for a tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment po­lit­i­cal re­forms and plan fresh elec­tions.

“I am giv­ing Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe an op­por­tu­nity to soft land the na­tional cri­sis. He will only have him­self to blame if cit­i­zens take mat­ters in their own hands,” he said. – Reuters

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