Soldiers’ morale hits rock bottom

Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is at its lowest due to lack of funding, which has pushed some members to engage in corrupt activities, a government official has revealed.

MORALE among members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is at its lowest due to lack of funding, which has pushed some members to engage in corrupt activities, a government official has revealed.

In his presentation during the just-ended pre-budget seminar at the New Parliament Building in Harare last week, Defence deputy minister Levi Mayihlome said the ministry was receiving inadequate budget allocations leading to several challenges in the ZDF and the ministry.

He said lack of funding had affected conditions of service, acquisition and maintenance of equipment.

“Training of soldiers cannot be done in bits and pieces. It must be a complete cycle. Every year, we plan to train, but because of inadequate funding, we end up abandoning the process.

“If soldiers are not trained, it affects discipline and we end up having challenges of drug and substance abuse. We inherited in 1980 reserve stocks from the war, but with time, they were depleted and were not replaced for over 44 years and imagine the wars we have fought, and we have not been able to replenish stocks,” he said.

Mayihlome also said underfunding undermined the role of the army.

“We have not been updating our technology because of inadequate funding. We are just in survival mode, but for an army that is not getting equipment, it undermines its capability and we do not guarantee the defence of our country.

“The current state of budget allocation affects the conditions of service. We don’t want to have an army with low morale because of low salaries, transport and fuel,” he said.

Mayihlome pleaded with Treasury to fund the ministry and improve living conditions for members of the defence forces.

“Soldiers need accommodation and one of the recommendations that we are making is let’s revive the mortgage scheme for housing,” he said.

Mayihlome’s revelations come as several soldiers have been implicated in criminal activities such as armed robbery and theft.

Two soldiers and a District Development Fund driver were recently sentenced to 15 months in prison by Concession magistrate Joshua Nembaware for stealing from the First Family.

In mitigation, the soldiers told the court that they stole the equipment because they wanted to raise money for their children’s school fees.

The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in its solidarity message during the Defence Forces Day commemorations in August this year said there was a need to improve the conditions of service of rank-and-file soldiers.

“They deserve to earn living US$ wages and (have) conditions of service befitting the important constitutional role they are mandated to play in our society,” the CCC said in a statement.

There is also speculation that the deteriorating standards of living and poor working conditions for soldiers could create problems for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who initially came to power through a military coup in 2017.

Critics say the Mnangagwa’s administration has neglected the low-ranking soldiers, who are seen wearing torn uniforms and shoes.

Mnangagwa has, however, pampered the top brass with top-of-the range vehicles, houses, loans and farms.

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