Mnangagwa seeks to appease restive soldiers with subsidised shops

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‘The government has decided that teachers will pay soldiers so that they live happily’ – Raymond Majongwe

Subsidised shops … President Emmerson Mnangagwa says his government will create shops inside barracks to sell food to soldiers at lower prices

BY MACDONALD DZIRUTWE

HARARE – Zimbabwe plans to set up shops within camps and barracks to sell subsidised goods like maize meal and cooking oil to members of the security forces, cabinet ministers said on Wednesday, as the government seeks to tame anger over economic hardship.

Economists estimate that year-on-year inflation reached 525 percent in December as Zimbabwe struggles with its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by shortages of food, foreign exchange, fuel and power.

To help ease conditions for the security forces, the government would establish “garrison” shops to enable service personnel to buy cheaper goods, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa and Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said.

With monthly salaries as low as US$140, political analysts say the lower ranks of the security forces, from the army to the police, have not been spared the effects of the crisis.

The announcement came on the same day that a former Cabinet minister claimed that security chiefs had warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa of growing anger in the middle and lower ranks of the army after inflation  shrivelled their salaries.

Jonathan Moyo claimed Mnangagwa had been advised to quit, or run the risk of a coup.

Mutsvangwa said all government workers would from next month start contributing 2.5 percent of their monthly salaries to a state savings fund. Security force members who make the contributions would be able to buy goods cheaply from the new shops.

The minister said consultations were still being held with the public service commission, which employs all government workers.

“Garrison shops in terms of physical structures already exist in the cantonment areas but there is no subsidy, that is what we want to try to cure with this proposal,” Ncube told reporters in Harare.

Ncube did not say how much would be spent on the subsidies.

Raymond Majongwe, the president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe said the plan was discriminatory.

“The government has decided that teachers will pay soldiers so that they live happily. It means every teacher will pay $75 monthly. The 140,000 teachers will raise $10.5 million, monthly and $126 million yearly to pay this special group of workers. This is illegal,” Majongwe said.

Mutsvangwa earlier said the government had increased the maize producer price fivefold to US$389 a tonne in a bid to encourage farmers to deliver the crop to state grain silos, which have been severely depleted after a drought last year.

Farmers, who are expected to start harvesting this year’s crop at the end of next month, would receive 6,958 Zimbabwe dollars (US$389) a tonne, compared with 1,400 Zimbabwe dollars set last June.

The agriculture minister said last month Zimbabwe only had 100,000 tonnes of grain in its strategic reserves, enough to last just over a month, forcing the government to ramp up imports of maize. – Reuters

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