BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday pledged to pamper the country’s military with salary upgrades and other benefits to cushion them against the skyrocketing cost of living, while urging the rest of the civil servants and hard-pressed citizens to remain patient as his government attempts to fix the economy, saying “the darkest hour comes before dawn”.
Addressing hundreds of people during Defence Forces Day commemorations at the National Sports Stadium, the Zanu PF leader said:
“My administration remains committed to improving the conditions of service of our armed forces. My government is aware that our defence force is equally affected by economic difficulties faced by the general citizenry. Efforts are at an advanced stage to reintroduce the military salary concept.”
Mnangagwa also said implementation of government’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme to restrict government expenditure, was ongoing with its attendant reform measures. Mnangagwa, however, cautioned that “the medicine to cure the country’s economic ailments would be painful, at household and State level, but sure to bring results. But the darkest hour comes before dawn”.
“We shall equally expedite the construction of accommodation facilities for the armed forces. Notable housing projects under construction are the Dzivarasekwa and Mbizo, which when complete, will provide accommodation for commissioners and non-commissioned officers,” he added.
The pledge to improve soldiers’ working conditions comes at a time Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda has threatened to unleash them to quash the looming opposition protests that have been occasioned by the southern African country’s worsening socio-economic and political situation.
The soldiers have, however not been the best of friends with the country’s citizens after being heavily implicated in the fatal shooting of civilian protesters on August 1 last year soon after general elections and in January after Mnangagwa hiked fuel prices by over 150%.
At least 23 civilians were shot dead by State security agents, mainly the military which had been deployed to quell the anti-government protests.
The economy has been on a free-fall since Mnangagwa rose to power following former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017 via a military coup.
The shrinking economy has triggered sporadic protests, with the main opposition MDC party threatening to roll out a series of demonstrations starting on Friday to force the Zanu PF government to stabilise the economy as well as corner Mnangagwa into agreeing to dialogue with the opposition.
The President also pleaded with hard-pressed Zimbabweans to bear with his austerity measures aimed at resolving the country’s economic crisis, but which have instead triggered serious shortages and sharp price increases of goods and services.
“Indications are that our economic fundamentals are now in place to facilitate an upward development trajectory. This has also been confirmed by the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions,” Mnangagwa said while warning the business community against capitalising on the economic crisis to profiteer unjustifiably.
“There is no justification, whatsoever, why our people should be subjected to some of the high prices of goods and services that we have witnesses in recent months. Equally, no economy can flourish in a corrupt environment. We are fully committed to zero tolerance to corruption and the law will be applied without fear or favour,” he declared.
“In conclusion, let me appeal to all Zimbabweans to cherish the peace that our country enjoys today. We should be vigilant and reject those amongst us who wish to perpetuate the suffering of the masses through violence, disunity, divisions and unrest.” NewsDay