via Reduce defence costs, say citizens | The Zimbabwean 22.10.13
Since 1980 the defence ministry has come second only to education – gobbling more than 20 percent of almost every budget – a figure higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. The military received $356 million in this year’s budget, up from $318 million in 2012.
With relative regional peace, security and stability; and the total absence of any internal threats, Zimbabweans said they expected a low defence budget for the first time in history.
With hopes for a quick economic turn-around fading fast following a national report showing that 711 companies in Harare closed down in the past two years due to a weak business climate, maintaining a high defence budget would only worsen the national crisis.
The latest National Social Security Authority report covering the period July 2011 to July 2013, says most major companies were barely managing to remain afloat, retrenching thousands to break even. These included giants like Zimplats and Unki, Bindura Nickel, Spar supermarkets, Dairibord, Cairns, Olivine Industries and PG Industries. About 10,000 workers lost their jobs during this period.
“Zimbabwe is not at war,” said Jimmy Jallif. “So the huge military budget would be better spent on real needs in sectors such as health, education, energy and upgrading of national road infrastructure.” The NSSA report says 47 companies involved in agriculture collapsed during the period.
The sector was yet to recover after the assault on commercial agriculture through land invasions which began in 2000. Rabson Mazuru a farmer in Murewa said: “Increased government budget on defence would not develop the country in any way for now. More resources should be allocated to agriculture since the country continues to face food insecurity. The sector is the country’s economic base should be well funded and revamped to steer national economic growth. I see no good reason why government should be prioritising defence issues during this peaceful hour.”
Analysts say the Zanu (PF) administration always wanted a strong and well-oiled security sector to deal with internal opponents. Further, allocations to the defence ministry were managed directly by the Executive, with little oversight from Parliament. “Because scrutiny is heavily restricted, money allocated to the defence sector is always open to abuse,” said a former member of the parliamentary committee on home affairs and defence.
Zimbabwe has about 50,000 active members of the defence forces.
World Disarmament Week 24 – 30 October
2011/2012 % of GDP spent on Defence in Zim and neighbouring countries:
South Africa 1.3%
– Source: SIPRI military expenditure database
Will increased military spending contribute to peace and sustainable development in Zimbabwe?
Tawanda Jamanda: No. We are not in a crisis so that should be the least of our priorities. There is no need to invest in military-related initiatives.
Tarisai Jangara: The focus and spending should be on bread and butter issues affecting the majority of people. Any resources we have should be going towards revitalising our industry.
Clever Chikukwa: That money should go towards education and health sector because we are not at war with anyone.
Silibaziso Saba: Government should strike a balance and invest in other critical sectors such as health because a healthy nation is critical for development.
Kennedy Tauzeni: We want to be assured that future generations are empowered economically. This can only be achieved if they are educated.
Jimmy Jallif: Increased expenditure on the military will not help develop the country. Spending on arms is typical of dictators, who want arms of war to protect their tyranny against democratic winds of change.
Admire Takawira: Government priorities continue to be upside down. Zimbabwe faces acute food shortages and the budget for defence would do the nation good if it was slashed and re-allocated to health, social welfare, education and employment creation. The size of the army should be slashed to cut unnecessary costs.
Obert Gutu: The country would do better with people with full stomachs, rather than starving people with full military armouries. Government should not be spending anything on defence at this hour.
Rabson Mazuru: More resources should be allocated to agriculture, which is the country’s economic base. I see no good reason why government should be prioritising defence issues during this peaceful hour.
Ngaaite Makozho: The arms can be bought anywhere in the world, be it China or US. What is important is that the cost should not chew all our resources.
Sungano Mabhodho: Government should channel the bigger portion of the budget to developmental projects such as construction of dams, roads, revamping of industry and farming. Maybe they fear that people might rise against a failed government.
Sheryl Masuku: The government should spend more on the provision of water and education. These are basic constitutional rights which the government has the obligation to deliver to its citizens.
Edwin Ndlovu: Most of the military hardware which we have bought from China is not productive. If we had invested that money in our education or agriculture we would have been able to feed the nation ourselves.
Gift Machingambi: There is nothing wrong in spending more money on military provided a country has enough resources. But when resources are scarce, like in our case, it is prudent to channel more resources into the productive sector and education. An army can only defend a healthy, educated and prosperous country.