via It’s baffling to talk about reviving ‘Green Bombers’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 4, 2015
There are lots of urgent issues to address in Zimbabwe at the moment, but those in power would rather bury their heads in the sand.
Said President Robert Mugabe in an address at the belated celebrations of his 91st birthday at Victoria Falls last weekend: “We want to enhance our national service training. It is important training indeed. We would want to get to a stage where every student will have gone through national service training at ‘O’ Level, so we want to build resources towards that.”
But, Zimbabwe in the state that it is cannot afford the luxury of that expenditure now nor in the near or remote future. You cut your cloth according to size. Resources, scarce as they are, should be deployed elsewhere where they are urgently needed.
In the event that the resources are built, they should be used for other beneficial purposes. This is not the time to talk about national youth service when everything has crumbled. You cannot turn the economy around on national service. We need something broader than that as a stimulus to the economy.
Second, this is at cross purposes with the fiscal stability that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been trying to achieve. Zimbabwe made considerable progress in stabilising the economy since the end of the hyperinflation period in 2009.
However, policies deteriorated in 2011 and 2012, with large salary rises crowding out priority infrastructure and social spending. This resulted in fiscal stress, which is worsening as government is practically broke.
So, the last thing we want to hear is about more recurrent spending on a massive scale like what the national youth service entails. Capital expenditure is what is needed.
Third, we have been down that road before. Any suggestion of reviving the national youth service programme should be treated with the greatest suspicion.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha hit the nail on the head saying: “The track record of the national youth service isn’t one that has been coherent or organised, but seen as a move to propagandise young Zimbabweans on issues Zanu PF feels are important. The partisan nature of the previous service casts doubts on its significance to improve the livelihoods of the people.”
Indeed, previous products of the so-called national service have served as nothing more than functionaries of Zanu PF.
They rose to notoriety when they set up roadblocks and no-go areas in the run-up to elections to stop the opposition from campaigning in rural areas, earning themselves the uncomplimentary nickname of “Green Bombers”, derived from people associating their green uniform and uncouth behaviour with the nasty, repellent, stomach-turning green bottle fly.
There has been nothing national about it. They have served as militias answerable to no one else, but Zanu PF. They were drilled into partisanship, making them a mere extension of the ruling party.
They are one of the reasons why the civil service is saddled with “ghost workers”, because their recruitment and selection criteria has been determined by the party, not the Civil Service Commission, the constitutionally mandated body to hire and fire civil servants.
The commission has its qualification and suitability standards, but these have been set aside as regards “Green Bombers”.
Like in many instances in this country, they have been a parallel structure alongside duly and properly engaged civil servants. This raises serious governance issues.
Reviving the national youth service at this juncture and in its previous form is baffling, to say the least.