Zim army benefits from 'illegal' hiring
More than 10,000 people have been hired "illegally" in Zimbabwe by ministries run by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, including those responsible for the army and police Finance Minister Tendai Biti has warned.
Biti is tasked with implementing austerity measures, as the southern African country tries to dig itself out of a deep economic hole.
But the minister, who is a member of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - Zanu-PF's partner in government - has had trouble reigning in ministries run by Mugabe's party.
"The two chief culprits are the Ministry of Defence, which employed 4,600 since January, and the Ministry of Home Affairs which has recruited 1,200 personnel without Treasury approval," Biti told Parliament last week.
The addition of new recruits was exacerbating the acute shortage of food at army barracks and adding to a wage bill Zimbabwe could not afford, he said.
"Even if they are 'illegal,' they are now part of the force," said Biti.
But their recruitment has raised even deeper concerns in the country where polls have been fraught with violence over the past decade.
"All the indications are that the military is preparing for elections and for a violent election, like there was in 2008," said Dewa Manhinga, a South Africa-based political analyst for Crisis Coalition, an international think tank.
The military has in recent months vocally supported Zanu-PF and dismissed the MDC, which is led by Mugabe's main rival in 2008 and current prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Last week the army's Chief of Staff Major-General Trust Mugoba declared at a public parade: "We will not even allow them (the MDC)to go into office."
When Biti at a ministerial meeting last week refused to pay the wages of the new army recruits, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly threatened him with violence.
The MDC has been the target of state-sponsored violence in the past. Tsvangirai was arrested and severely beaten by police in the run-up to the 2008 election.
MDC supporters were among the more than 200 people reportedly killed by security forces, in what was widely regarded as a fraudulent poll that saw Mugabe return to office for a sixth term.
The 88-year-old who became prime minister at independence in 1980 and later moved into the presidency, is widely expected to run for office in the next election.
"The country has already started recording an increase in cases of politically-motivated violence and we must rely on the likes of Mnangagwa, as a senior government official to denounce unruly behaviour," said an MDC statement.
"The Defence Minister must know that there are other means of solving challenges other than by threats and intimidation."