ZNA plans war vets reserve force

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - The Zimbabwe National Army will this year set up a reserve force of war veterans in a plan that will see the discharge of thousands of junior and non commissioned troops in a move ostensibly aimed at streamlining the force and cutting back on military spending.
Classifie

d documents seen by The Zimbabwean reveal a plan by the Joint Operation Command, comprising heads of the army, the shadowy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), police and prisons to “shift from a large robust force to a minimal self-defence capability.”
The Defence ministry public relations and international relations director general, Brigadier General Trust Mugoba, prepared the document for the JOC.
The plan involves the establishment of a department under the ministry of defence, which will deal only with the war veterans reserve force.
Mugoba states in the document that the department is being established after realizing that “war veterans had military skills and could be better managed by the ministry.” The report states that only war veterans with “special skills” would be considered under the scheme.
“We have situations where war veterans have been called to participate in the defence of the country since independence, we need a reserve army and only those with certain skills will be called when needed. We are going to retrench thousands of junior troops to cut back on expenditure,” says the report.
The document states that since the 1990s, Zimbabwe reduced the size of its military establishment from 82,000 to 40,000 and then to around 30,000.
Defence attachés said it was clear the move was an admission by government that it was broke and was struggling to maintain its army amid reports that troops were protesting at food shortages in the barracks.
Those involved in the protests are mainly junior and have been confined to their barracks amid reports that some will be court-marshalled, according to military sources.
Defence attachés said the purge of junior troops betrayed Mugabe’s fears of a military coup.
“It shows he is increasingly getting unsettled by junior troops as he fears they could overthrow him or disobey his orders,” said a defence attaché privately.
“Remember he has said the army will be given instructions to turn their guns on protesters. I don’t see the junior troops blindly following such orders, hence the need to recall war veterans who have traditionally been loyal to him. What the commander-in-chief needs right now is absolute loyalty.”
A similar purge is also underway in the Presidential Guard amid reports the force is being turned into a loyalist corps of quasi-military militia through
the discharge of professionals and the recruitment of green bombers.
But Mugoba’s report denied this, saying “Loyalty is not an issue here, but we realise that war veterans have a military background.”
Observers say a military coup is no longer out of the question due to the rising groundswell of discontent in the armed forces stemming from poor salaries and working conditions.

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