DEFENSE Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri was cornered on Wednesday by Independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa over the opaque investments and business dealings of military-owned company Rusununguko Nkululeko Holdings (Pvt) Ltd.
The military company is the brainchild of the late Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo and has vast investments in various sectors of the economy, including media after securing a television license to operate its NRTV station.
Mliswa took on Muchinguri-Kashiri at the helm of the business entity that symbolizes the opaque commercialization of the military whose financial owners have not been scrutinized.
Mliswa said the shadowy society does not benefit junior soldiers, but a small clique of top brass.
His challenge to the Minister of Defense led to his expulsion from Parliament by Vice President Nomalanga Mzilikazi Khumalo.
To put the case into context, Mliswa said while he had no problem with the army investing in the economy through Rusununguko Nkululeko, the company must be audited and held accountable. of its activities to avoid corruption and benefit individuals.
“My question is, Honorable Minister (Muchinguri-Kashiri), do you know that the Minister of Defense has not submitted accounts since 2020? There is a company called Rusununguko, a brainchild of the late SB Moyo that would attack to the economic problems of the army Rusununguko received resources in this country so that the Ministry of Defense would not be perceived as suffering.
“Rusununguko has not yet told us that the resources granted to them by the government have reached how much. We do not know if these resources are for some people using the name Rusununguko in the army, or if Rusununguko is really a concern of the army We haven’t seen all the financial reports so when we discuss the budget of the Ministry of Defense, Rusununguko’s income comes in, the Minister of Finance then takes care of it and does not give all the money to the Department of Defense.
“We would like to know, from the point of view of responsibility, how much money Rusununguko earns and where does this money go, because in all areas they are looting resources on behalf of Rusununguko, a military company. Rusununguko and we would like to know about the partnership with the Chinese and how much they benefit the army because the soldiers complain that there is no money, while there are resources that the army has received to pay the soldiers,” Mliswa asked.
Vice President Khumalo tried to shield Muchinguri by saying the question needed numbers and could not be answered on the day, but Mliswa would have none of it.
“Rusununguko is a vehicle that you Zanu-PF Politburo members use, Honorable Senetor Mutsvangwa, to get things. It is the truth. You abuse it. It is a vehicle that you and the generals, senior limbs use to steal the country’s resources, but veterans and soldiers suffer.”
“We want to be accountable. Where does the money that Rusununguko generates go or give the country’s resources to the people? Give them to ordinary soldiers to enjoy,” he fumed.
“Honourable Mliswa, please get out of the Chamber,” replied the Deputy Speaker, who later claimed the MP had been kicked out because he was making noise. Mliswa was escorted out of the room by the Sergeant-at-Arms, but on leaving he bellowed:
“Rusununguko icompany yevakuru irikubira masoja mari (Rusununguko is a boss company that steals soldiers’ money).”
Rusununguko Nkululekp Holdings’ lack of financial probity dates back to June last year when the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) sued the entity demanding US$142,530 for the use of its chalets since 2018.
ZimParks said it rented its chalets to Rusununguko Nkululeko under a geographic lease.
Several reviews written by scholars in the past show that the commercialization of the military is a high security risk that could fund instability or even coups.
In a review titled “The Curse of Military Commercialism in State and Parastatal Enterprises in Zimbabwe,” academic Gorden Moyo, a former minister of state in the cabinet of the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, highlights the issue.
It unpacks the implications of the growing incursion of retired and serving military officers into state and parastatal enterprises (SEPs) as shareholders, directors, chief executives, executives and, most curiously, as workforce.
He points out that the reason the military is being commercialized is a strategy to consolidate power and crush political opposition.
Moyo argues that the military is marketed in Zimbabwe to increase the personal wealth of senior commanders as a reward for their loyalty to ensuring the regime’s survival in the face of growing challenge from the opposition.
“In this context, the military is blatantly interfering with the regime’s political processes, including elections in favor of the ruling party – Zanu-PF,” Moyo writes.
However, more and more research papers indicate that the risk of having an independent army well financed by dark companies is that it can use the same resources to overthrow the government in place.
Academics argue that a commercialized army is dangerous for Zimbabwe because it poses a threat to civilian authority. The military must salute civilian political authority, not the other way around.
Late army general SB Moyo, who founded the Rusununguko Nkululeko company, was the face of the 2017 military coup that toppled longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
Muchinguri-Kashiri denied that funds had been misappropriated from Rusununguko Nkululeko and said the government was taking care of the soldiers through a “concept of military salary which was abandoned during the First Republic, only to be revived during the Second Republic”.