By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
4 July 2014
The Zimbabwe National Army is facing challenging times and has embarked on cost-saving measures which have seen military personnel being forced to take two weeks’ leave every month, a weekly newspaper reported on Friday.
The Zimbabwe Independent said measures have been introduced nationwide to reduce spending on food and utility bills at barracks. The ZNA boasts of a combined personnel of 50,000 men and women and is headed by Lieutenant-General Phillip Sibanda.
Reasons given for the drastic action are that the cash-strapped government is devising more ways of cutting down on expenditure in the face of dwindling revenue inflows to Treasury.
The cost reduction measure comes months after government had asked soldiers to look for alternative accommodation to reduce the number of personnel staying in barracks.
The acceleration of the economic decline since the elections last year is alarming and there are fears the ZANU PF government will soon get to a point where they will not be able to pay civil servants at all.
In April this year a parliamentary report on defence and home affairs painted a gloomy picture of the financial position of the defence forces.
The report stated that some soldiers have not been able to access healthcare because of the army’s debts. The report also stated that Zimbabwe’s security forces were failing to fulfil all their functions because of a lack of funds.
The last time the soldiers faced a similar dilemma was in 2008. This led to a group of soldiers rioting in central Harare over growing economic hardships. This was by far the biggest threat to President Robert Mugabe’s 34 years of autocratic rule.
Sox Chikohwero, a former Airforce of Zimbabwe officer and MDC intelligence chief, warned of dire consequences if the government doesn’t resuscitate the economy.
‘The danger is if they let the economy plummet further down it will get to a point where they will not be in a position to pay soldiers. This will lead to despondency and as we have seen in other countries, soldiers can mutiny if they are not adequately looked after,’ Chikohwero said.
Morale among soldiers is reportedly the lowest among the country’s security services. The government admits it is facing serious financial constraints because of the country’s catastrophic economic decline since Robert Mugabe’s ‘win’ in last year’s election.