Zimbabwe - Military Spending

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) is estimated at approximately 40,000 members. Zimbabwe allocates 4% of the GDP for military expenditures. According to the best available data, in 1996, the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa collectively spent over $10 billion on their military establishments. For the modal country in the region, this amounted to about 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a reduction from the late 1980s, when the modal country in the region spend more like about 4 percent of its GDP on its armed forces.

In most African militaries, an overwhelming proportion of the budget goes to salaries and personnel allowances. In recent years, Zimbabwe spent about 70 percent of its defense budget on personnel salaries and allowances. This seems a common pattern. Typically, very small portions of the military budget are allocated to infrastructure and capital costs. The funds available for contingency operations must generally be taken from other resources available to the state.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo featured another source of funding for at least some of the intervening armies since 1998. Uganda may have supported its Congo adventure by trafficking in Congolese gold and diamonds, while Zimbabwean entrepreneurs connected to senior officials obtained lucrative access to Congolese minerals in exchange for Zimbabwe’s backing of the Kabila regime. These examples point to a troubling issue: the prospect that African leaders in the future may be tempted to commit military forces to regional conflicts in the expectation of significant financial reward. However, it is worth noting that neither Uganda nor Zimbabwe was able to fully finance the human and materiel costs of their Congo intervention with Congolese resources. Significantly, in neither case were the citizens of the countries consulted about the political or financial implications of the interventions. Mugabe probably could not have deployed his country’s forces to the Democratic Republic of Congo in late 1997 had he been held accountable for the economic ramifications to Zimbabwe of that deployment.

National leaders in countries like Zimbabwe can divert significant resources to security forces in ways that are entirely shielded from public scrutiny and accountability. Funds that contribute directly to the security forces requirements—such as construction of facilities—can be obscured in budgets of otherwise unrelated ministries. For that matter, funds allocated in military budgets can be diverted to nondefense uses, including graft.

Some African military establishments are so austerely funded that personnel are obliged to rely on petty commerce or farming (often performed by “dependents” of military members) to make ends meet — so, in a sense, depending on the informal economy to “fund” defense needs like salaries. Some African countries operate on “cash budgets” in which ministries of the state are allocated funding on a month-by-month basis, based upon revenues available (which cannot be accurately anticipated). In short, no one really knows what many African countries spend on defense, including senior officials of the countries themselves.

Since independence the defense budget has been prepared by civilians in the Ministry of Defence under the authority of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence. Neither the army nor the air force had a budget office, but the service chiefs and commanders of major units were closely consulted, as were political authorities while funding levels were being determined. After its acceptance by the prime minister, the defense budget was debated and voted on by parliament where the Mugabe government had no trouble getting its defense priorities approved. During Zimbabwe's 1981-82 fiscal year (FY), Z$280.5 million as authorized for the Ministry of Defence, accounting for 17 percent of Zimbabwe's total government spending and for 8.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1980.

Military spending had increased from Z$163.0 million in 1978-79 and Z$266.2 million in 1979-80, the last two fiscal years of the civil war, but the higher costs were, to an extent, the result of Zimbabwe's inflationary trends. During this period, when the defense budget increased by 67 percent, spending on health and education rose by 80 percent, and total government expenditures grew by 92 percent.

Zimbabwe's continued high defense costs resulted largely from the government's reluctance to demobilize significant numbers of the 50,000 former guerrillas (see Military Manpower: Demobdization and Integration, this ch.). It was estimated that over 75 percent of the FY 1981-82 defense budget was devoted to personnel costs. Spending on military personnel had been limited during the civil war because the Territorial Army reserves, who constituted most of Rhodesia's military personnel, were rarely mobilized all at the same time, and they were paid only for their time on active duty. By contrast, the reserves in the Zimbabwe armed forces (mainly unintegrated former guerrillas in assembly camps) constituted a full-time force that had to be paid and housed. In FY 1980-81 there were Z$33.3 million plus Z718.9 million in supplementary finds authorized to pay the reserves, compared with a total of Z$21.1 million authorized during the last year of the war. The costs of the reserves declined by some Z44 million the following year as the guerrillas were brought into the regular army, but army salaries rose from Z$55 million to Z$117 million. Maintenance costs also increased, and some capital spending, including Z$10 million in FY 1980-81 supplementary spending for building additional barracks, resulted from the army's expanded personnel strength.

Military expenditures in 1982 had only begun to be affected by the costs of replacing obsolete and worn-out Rhodesian equipment that continued to serve the Zimbabwean military. The air force was most in need of an expensive reequipment program, as all of its first-line jet aircraft until 1981 had been delivered before UDI in 1965 and had been used almost continuously since. The sabotage in 1982 of thirteen aircraft, including the first four new jets delivered in nearly twenty years, accelerated the need for new planes while increasing the costs involved.

Continued high levels of military spending adversely affected the economy. Increased military spending in FY 1981-82 was funded, in part, by indirect taxes, which were expected to result in an immediate 5 percent increase in the cost of living. Military spending was a partial reason for an expected Z$312.1 million budgetary deficit which, although not as high as some feared, contributed to the weakening of the 'currency and to increased borrowing on international markets. Moreover military equipment purchases after independence included few, if any, domestically produced goods other than uniforms and other personnel equipment items; vehicles and Weapons produced domestically during the war ceased to be demanded by the military after independence.

Partly to ease the burden ofdefense spending, Mugabe has expressed the desire that Zimbabwe's armed forces, like those of other socialist and African countries, actively engage in economic development schemes. Operation SEED (Soldiers Engaged in Economic Development), launched shortly after independence, was the first large-scale development project involving the military. But three pilot farms involving 10,000 former guerrillas from the assembly camps proved less successful than the government had hoped, and the program was gradually phased out. According to Mugabe, the farming efforts were hampered primarily by a lack of tools and equipment. Even at the most successful Operation SEED site, located near the Gwai River assembly camp in the northwest, former ZIPRA guerrillas cultivated 600 acres of maize with no more than a few ho'ses and wheelbarrows. Other observers blamed the guenillas' resentmentof white supervisory personnel, their lack of farming expertise, and the feeling, prevalent among many, that farming was a demeaning activity for soldiers.

In 1982 it appeared that programs to engage the military in productive tasks would continue to be developed. Military vehicles were used to transport maize when plentiful harvests combined with transportation bottlenecks in 1980 and 1981. During a critical drought in Matabeleland in 1982, the government called upon the army to transport emergency water and foodsupplies to 120,000 of the people most severely affected and food aid to 2 million others. In addition to agricultural projects, elements of the army were reportedly engaged in the cnstructio of roids, bridges, and schools as well as in other public works projects. According to Mugabe in late 1981, every brigade would, in the future, be expected to engage in productive work "as a matter ofdiscipline and [as] a way of life...." He stated that the army should and would produce for itself and for the country.

In many parts of the world, senior policymakers can be prone to squander national resources on expensive weapons not out of military necessity but for their symbolic value, and African countries are no exception. This probably was the case in abortive Zimbabwean negotiations to purchase sophisticated Soviet Mig-29 fighters in the late 1980s.

Because of the limited oversight of procurement processes, officials in many African countries have found significant opportunity for graft. One notorious example was the Zimbabwean purchase of a large quantity of Spanish Santana light utility vehicles in the early 1990s, despite the fact that similar vehicles at better prices were available in the region. Soon after this purchase, the Santana Corporation folded. With no available spare parts, most of the vehicles in Zimbabwe were inoperable. Ironically, Zimbabwe has a relatively sophisticated procurement establishment.

According to the World Bank, military expenditures data from SIPRI are derived from the NATO definition, which includes all current and capital expenditures on the armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; defense ministries and other government agencies engaged in defense projects; paramilitary forces, if these are judged to be trained and equipped for military operations; and military space activities. Such expenditures include military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions of military personnel and social services for personnel; operation and maintenance; procurement; military research and development; and military aid (in the military expenditures of the donor country).

Excluded are civil defense and current expenditures for previous military activities, such as for veterans' benefits, demobilization, conversion, and destruction of weapons. This definition cannot be applied for all countries, however, since that would require much more detailed information than is available about what is included in military budgets and off-budget military expenditure items. (For example, military budgets might or might not cover civil defense, reserves and auxiliary forces, police and paramilitary forces, dual-purpose forces such as military and civilian police, military grants in kind, pensions for military personnel, and social security contributions paid by one part of government to another.)

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