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Vol 43 No 23

Published 22nd November 2002


The new veterans march home

Corrupt and politicised, President Mugabe's army may be more dangerous at home than it was in the Congo

Trouble looms as the final contingent of Zimbabwean troops in Congo-Kinshasa returns home to a divided and nearly bankrupt country. Despite the veneer of multi-party elections, Zimbabwe is now under militarised rule, where a handful of the political elite makes policy alongside senior military and security officers. Political life is effectively under martial law: dissidents are tortured, opposition voters are attacked and deprived of food aid, critical journalists are prosecuted and also sometimes tortured. Like military rule elsewhere, the militarisation of Zimbabwe has brought few benefits to soldiers in the ranks. Congo veterans expect rewards: promotion, pay rises and above all, land (AC Vol 43 No 21). Already there have been clashes between veterans and bureaucrats over allocation in the land resettlement programme. President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly assured Congo veterans they will have priority in the queue. The veterans' frustration is compounded when they learn that commanders such as Air Marshal Perence Shiri and General Vitalis Zvinavashe have commandeered several farms each for personal use. Meanwhile, First Lady Grace Mugabe has been allocated a 27-bedroom mansion and adjoining farmland for 'duties of state', say local press reports. Even if the vets get their land, there will be little state cash to develop it. In Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa's budget for 2003, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement is fifth in line, with an allocation of Z$40.5 billion (that is US$736 million at the official rate of Z$55=US$1 or US$20.2 mn. at the parallel market rate of Z$2,000=US1). Defence is second with a vote of Z$76.4 bn.

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