BY MOSES MATENGA
GOVERNMENT has pledged to build shopping malls, residential flats, garrison shops and robust armouries for soldiers in several barracks and cantonment areas, a move observers viewed as part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s machinations to coup-proof his administration ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
Recently, government came under fire for allocating over $270 million for the construction of a VVIP health facility at Manyame Airbase, Manyame Referral Hospital, to cater for high-ranking officials at a time when the country’s public health infrastructure is in a sorry state.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet on Tuesday approved a number of projects in military cantonments to ensure a comfortable life for the military.
The Cabinet position followed a presentation by the inter-ministerial committee which visited Zimbabwe Defence Forces cantonment areas which was presented by National Housing and Social Amenities minister Daniel Garwe.
Some of the approved projects include construction of permanent physical infrastructure at William Ndangana Barracks in Chipinge which is responsible for the security of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border area.
“Cabinet approved construction of the following structures at William Ndangana, Gimboki, Manyame Airbase and other cantonment areas: Residential flats, garrison shops and shopping malls, office accommodation and robust armoury,” Mutsvangwa said.
The Cabinet also agreed on a nationwide physical infrastructure maintenance and refurbishment exercise starting with Gimboki Barracks in Mutare and the drilling of more boreholes at Gimboki and other cantonment areas facing water challenges.
“The immediate implementation of new construction technology in housing delivery at Dzivarasekwa and other cantonment areas, which delivers affordable and sustainable housing at half the cost, the installation of medical equipment for Manyame Referral Hospital, and that the facilities are replicated throughout the country.”
Cabinet, Mutsvangwa said, also agreed to fund the construction of new cantonment facilities and programmed maintenance in all cantonment areas starting with William Ndangana, Gimboki Barracks and Manyame Airbase.”
Government also pledged to build 1 500 housing units at Dzivarasekwa Barracks and spruce up roads, aircraft parking bays, sewerage and water reticulation systems in the cantonment areas.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Marvellous Khumalo said government’s “generosity” to the military had everything to do with the forthcoming elections and also to protect the regime from any potential threats, including a coup.
“This is clear favouritism. It is a case of separating a certain section of the population from the rest and we feel that this has something to do with the forthcoming 2023 elections,” Khumalo said.
“We also hear of talk about a potential coup, so this is a form of containment and appeasement to the security forces so as to buy their allegiance.
“Why not simply improve conditions for the rest of the citizens because not all soldiers are accommodated within the barracks and cantonment areas? Some are within the residential suburbs.”
He added: “We link this to the discontent that is coming out from the citizens in general and this is coming after a section of war veterans started blaming the establishment for abandoning them. We feel this is the way to buy allegiance from the security sector.”
The ruling party recently boasted of its links with the military that was involved in the November 2017 military coup and the bloody 2008 presidential election re-run.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said: “It is a misplaced priority. In as much as the military must be well provided for in terms of its needs, including health and other amenities, what is lacking is a national strategy on public service delivery.”
Mukundu added: “You cannot have a piecemeal approach that seeks to appease those that you abuse for political ends like the military. The military is part of a bigger society, so you cannot provide services that are lacking in the entire society, be it health and affordable goods and then expect to only service one segment of society which is the military. To me this appears to be a very familiar strategy by Zanu PF which is election related.”