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As Elections Near, Zimbabwe's Mugabe Boosts Patronage To Security Forces

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has increased perks for top army and police officials and boosted monthly stipends to war veterans in what is widely seen as a generous round of patronage to ensure loyalty with elections set in March.

Mr. Mugabe upgraded the title of Augustine Chihuri, formerly commission of police, to commissioner general of police, in line with a constitutional amendment passed last year. He re-appointed other loyalists including Defense Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga and Lieutenant General Philip Sibanda, the army commander.

Both have publicly expressed their support for Mr. Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party. In October 2004, five months before the last general election, Chiwenga stated publicly that the army would not support any change of government that was "foreign driven," implying that the opposition was in the hire of the British government.

They and other top uniformed officials are to receive new vehicles.

The war veterans, who from 2000 on served as Mr. Mugabe’s political shock troops in his controversial land reform program, will receive Z$200 million (US$30) a month.

Chairman Jabulani Sibanda of the War Veterans Association confirmed the increase in payments. Economists warned that such generosity will further damage the economy by increasing public debt and adding fuel to already roaring hyperinflation.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that more money must be printed to finance what look like election-year handouts.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...