Harare - The Zimbabwe Defence Forces lost R1,7-billion worth of military equipment destroyed or captured by rebels fighting President Laurent Kabila's government in the year-long Democratic Republic of Congo war.
President Robert Mugabe deployed 11 000 soldiers to help Kabila remain in power in the face of a rebel onslaught backed by Rwanda and Uganda.
Authoritative sources privy to a document prepared to quantify and value Zimbabwe's losses in the DRC before Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa announced the country's 2000 budget two weeks ago said the R1,7-billion figure excluded the monthly expenditure for the upkeep of the Zimbabwean troops and the money being used to maintain the families of the 434 Zimbabwean soldiers who died in the war.
"The idea was to quantify our military equipment losses only and come up with a figure for Minister Murerwa to enable him to readjust the capital expenditure budget for the Ministry of Defence so that we can start repurchasing some of the lost equipment," said a highly placed Ministry of Defence source who asked for anonymity.
Other sources said the funds to replace Zimbabwe's lost arsenal in the DRC would be built into the Ministry of Defence budget over a three to five-year period, and this would keep the defence budget high for the foreseeable future.
This is likely to incense the International Monetary Fund, which has said Zimbabwe must cut its defence expenditure drastically as a precondition for getting extra aid.
Among the equipment Zimbabwe lost were some of the air force's Cassa 212 transport planes, Alouette-3 helicopter gunships and MiG fighter jets.
Also lost were armoured personnel carriers and several Brazilian-manufactured Cascavel tanks containing heavy ammunition and radio communication systems.
Zimbabwe lost several anti-aircraft guns during the rebels' bombing raids and tons of light weapons.
The sources added that all the military hardware lost had been valued at current market prices from manufacturers and the total came to R1,7-billion. - The Star Foreign Service