Mugabe wants soldiers to be paid well for whose benefit?

soldiers_lootingHARARE - President Mugabe recently promised better remuneration to defence forces, and urged them to remain loyal in the face of what he called imperialistic forces seeking to oust him from power. (Pictured: At the height of the economic crisis in 2008, dozens of troops ran amok in th

“”I wish to point out that government remains keenly aware of the need to improve conditions of service for our uniformed forces and indeed the rest of the civil service,” Mugabe told a 2010 President’s Medal Shooting Award ceremony in Harare recently.

Analysts say the President’s grip on power would be severely weakened if the security forces stopped backing him.

The unity government formed a year ago to end a protracted political crisis says it needs at least US$10 billion to reverse a decade of economic decline, but is struggling to get foreign aid.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said civil service pay takes up at least 60 percent of revenues, and limited resources make it difficult for the state to increase wages significantly.

At the height of the economic crisis in 2008, dozens of troops ran amok in the Zimbabwean capital Harare after losing their temper while queuing up to withdraw cash at a bank. The military is seen as one of President Mugabe’s core supporters and was accused of taking part in a campaign of violence against the opposition during the last elections.

Mugabe said: “It is government’s desire to align civil servants’ salaries with the high cost of living that is obtaining in the country. Accordingly, we remain hopeful that the state of the economy will continue to improve as we implement strategies to generate economic revitalisation.”

Soldiers earn about US$180 a month and want the government to raise wages to US$600.

Mugabe said “given the paucity of resources many of us wonder what makes the Zimbabwe Defence Forces continue to tick.”

A member of the Harare business community said that the one of the ways President Mugabe could keep an army pay-rise promise would be to insist on the proceeds from the sales of diamonds spirited out of the country being transferred from Far Eastern bank accounts back to Zimbabwe.

Another way would be to empty the blocked bank accounts of Zimbabweans on the targeted sanctions lists into the Minister of Finance’s revenue account. Most of those balances were almost certainly built up illegally by people who could obtain foreign exchange at preferential exchange rates and could externalise the funds by sidestepping exchange controls.

However, the business executive said that perhaps the best way of all would be to drastically downsize the armed forces. “Zimbabwe has no need of a huge army. The country is not under threat from any of its neighbours, it has no border disputes, it is not on a trade route for guns or drugs and it is not planning to invade any other country. Why does it need an army? A good police force would be more than enough.”

The executive noted a remarkable change in the treatment of soldiers who live in the high density townships. A few years ago they were so resented that they could not move around alone. Today they are so obviously experiencing the same hardships as everyone else that they are no longer ostracised, no longer threatened. “They are struggling like the rest of us, so they are not so easily persuaded that Zanu (PF) can do no wrong. Like the rest of us, they know only too well who is to blame for their misery.”

Mugabes plea for more money for ZNA members come amid reports that the institution is failing to meet a recruitment quota system as aspiring soldiers reportedly spurn the profession considerably due to the melt down of the state of affairs and poor remunerations at the national security force.

The state of affairs at ZNA was caused by Zimbabwes comatose economy, which took a nose dive since the beginning of the decade. This has culminated in army officials nationwide resorting to leaving en masse to the so-called greener pastures in neighbouring countries to take up menial jobs.

Realising the extent of the exodus and the threat it posed to the national security, the government introduced a strict two year bonding system to curb the imminent departure of army graduates.

Impeccable sources told ***The Zimbabwean*** that the army in Bulawayo had dismally failed to dig up the targeted number of recruiting 500 aspiring soldiers in each province compelling the ZNA to mitigate the entry qualifications to allow for an increase in the number of people joining the force.

All is not well in the national army, many people are no longer dreaming of being soldiers as before due to the problems associated with this profession particularly the working conditions and the salaries which are not attractive. The other issue is people are not interested in being used as party militia as has become a norm with Zanu (PF).

On the July intake this year, three combined provinces including Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South, only recruited 180 candidates yet under normal circumstances each of the three provinces was supposed to come up with 500 candidates. It definitely shows that there is a deep seated problem which raises more questions than answers, said the source.

The source also added that the entry qualification was toned down to such an extent that those who could not manage the physical fitness test of a 10 kilometre marathon were considered even without the required academic qualifications of 5 O Levels among other hosts of qualifications. The age limit which used to be ranging from 17 to 23 years has reportedly been raised to 30 years, a move which plainly points towards how desperate the army is to fill the gaps caused by either death or deserters.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that in some parts of Matebeleland provinces would-be recruits were being forced to join the force to ensure the required number of recruits becomes reasonable.

The source said the food situation and the training facilities in the camps had become one of the reasons why most people were shunning the security force.

It is quite unfortunate that the food situation has not improved in any way for the recruits, talk of the training facilities and other necessities during and after training, the situation is just bad, the source said.

However, speaking at the graduation ceremony of army personnel at Imbizo barracks last month, Brigadier General Itai Justin Mujaji confirmed that the defence force was in a precarious situation accusing the west of being the architect of the forces predicaments.

Everyone here is aware that the country is under siege from the USA, Britain and her European Union allies who imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. The central government has not been giving us enough finances from the national budget resulting in all these problems, Mujaji said.

In the past people have seen the army central intelligence officers and police being used by the state as weapons of torture and intimidation particularly against people perceived to be supporters of the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, (MDC).

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