Zimbabwe has increased its 2013 defence budget to US$356 million, up from US$318 million this year.
Last year Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti set aside US$194 million for defence while this year alone, the government allocated it US$318 million. Ministry of Defence officials have complained in the past three years that Biti has been Finance Minister that the budgetary support for the military was paltry. However, some officials and civic society groups are not happy with the increase in the defence budget to US$356 million.
Zimbabwe has an overall 2013 budget of US$3.8 billion, with education taking up US$1 billion. Between 1980 and 2009, the Ministry of Defence came second only to the Ministry of Education as it received more than 20% of the budget in most years. However, in recent years the defence force has suffered from decreased funding – around five years ago the military only had money for rations and salaries, reports the Jane’s information group.
Informed sources say Zimbabwe’s military is in urgent need of money to effectively boost its recruitment and to buy new equipment, most of which is said to be out-dated and in urgent need of renewal and replacement is some cases.
“In order to gradually move towards the international best practice thresholds of 7% of GDP and about 30% of the total budget on the wage bill, government will continue to maintain the freeze on recruitment (including for the army and police), save for case by case special dispensations on critical areas,” Biti has previously told Zimbabwe’s parliamentarians.
A recent parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence and Home Affairs lamented dwindling defence spending, which it asserted “threatens Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over land and air space.”
Zimbabwe’s economy is likely to remain subdued in 2013, a year that is likely to see the country having elections to end the current coalition government bringing together Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party as well as a smaller MDC splinter faction.
The elections will come against the backdrop of concerns and allegations that President Robert Mugabe is using the military to roll out campaign platforms for his re-election bid and that of his Zanu PF party.
The Zimbabwe Independent earlier this month reported that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has acquired approximately 1 000 vehicles, worth US$45 million, which may be used in support of Magube’s election campaign. Apparently the vehicles include Isuzu KB72 4X2 and Isuzu KB72 4X4s as well as other makes.
Around 40 vehicles have reportedly already been delivered by dealerships. “The purchase comes as Zanu PF is stepping up its election campaigning by acquiring 550 cars at a cost of US$14 million to ensure its officials and foot soldiers reach all corners of the country to mobilise voters,” the Independent said.
In November last year the Southern Africa Report, which focuses on political and economic intelligence issues in Africa, said that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces had taken delivery of “the first of several consignments of Chinese small arms and equipment,” including 20 000 AK-47 assault rifles, uniforms, a dozen trucks and 21 000 pairs of handcuffs.
Biti last week said that Zimbabwe’s economy will grow by 5% next year but emphasised that it “has not entered into a sustainable growth” and recovery mode and added that “violent elections were the biggest risk” for Zimbabwe’s economy in 2013. “The biggest risk remains a violent and contested election.”