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Rumbles of discontent as govt fails to buy security vehicles

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BERNARD MPOFU

MORALE in the security services may soon hit rock bottom as the government battles to plug a massive backlog of personal service vehicles for senior officers amid deteriorating working conditions, The NewsHawks has established.

Zimbabwe’s financially-beleaguered government has over the years splurged millions of United States dollars on top-of-the-range vehicles which include Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus sports utility  vehicles at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has been pleading for a bailout package from development partners.

The southern African country is facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, characterised by hyperinflation, liquidity challenges and high unemployment rate, largely attributed to bad governance and policy inconsistency.

Information gathered by The NewsHawks shows that senior officers in the military, police and prison service who are entitled to service vehicles have been on the waiting list for close to three years without taking delivery of the vehicles.

Sources said nearly 300 lieutenant-colonels who were promoted from 2018 to date are yet to get their vehicles. In the police and prison service, more than 50 superintendents who were promoted to the rank of chief superintendent have not received their service vehicles during the same period, sources said.

This comes against the backdrop of Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s claims that Treasury coffers have improved in the past two years due to several belt-tightening measures.

Sources said while Ncube had released a circular on personal loans for the purchase of vehicles for senior government officials such as chief directors (previously known as principal directors), senior servicemen were still entitled to vehicles bought by the government.

“As it stands, only battalion commanders in the case of colonels got first preference upon their promotion. For police officers, dispols (officer commanding district) also enjoyed this preferential treatment because Treasury coffers appear to be depleted. It’s been three years since newly promoted officers got new vehicles,” a security source told The NewsHawks.

The senior officers, sources added, are entitled to single-cab trucks such as Ford Rangers.

Critics have in the past condemned the government for splurging millions of dollars on the importation of cars for senior officials at a time the state-owned car assembler, Willowvale Motor Industries, is collapsing.

Questions sent to Vincent Hungwe, chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Defence Forces Service Commission, Police Service Commission and Prison and Correctional Service Commission, were not responded to at the time of going to print.

Last year, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (pictured) told parliament there was disquiet among members of the Zimbabwe National Army and morale had hit rock bottom as a result of the economic challenges in the country, and confirmed some soldiers were now engaging in corrupt activities for survival.

Muchinguri-Kashiri appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence and Home Affairs led by acting chairperson Chiredzi South MP Kalisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF), where she outlined a myriad of challenges soldiers are facing in the discharge of their duties, including hunger, inadequate transport and obsolete machinery.

“To all intents and purposes, they do not go on strike when others go on strike. They are the ones brought in to bridge that gap. This is always the case, especially with the ministry of Health medical personnel who are almost always on strike,” she said.

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