BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is fretting over a rise in the number of armed robberies involving soldiers and police officers, with observers saying it is tantamount to a mutiny.
Mnangagwa promised to immediately address the welfare of soldiers whose welfare was seriously impacted by poor remuneration and working conditions over years.
He made the claims during the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day celebrations in Harare yesterday.
Mnangagwa warned rogue elements in the security sector against being involved in criminal activities.
“Yours is a noble profession, you must, therefore, avoid association and acts that put to shame our security institutions,” Mnangagwa warned.
“You as officers, men and women of the ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) should never be entangled in criminal activities.”
The country has experienced a rise in cases of soldiers and police officers being involved in armed robberies and other criminal activities in the past months. Some of those implicated fall under the Presidential Guard.
Observers say the rise in cases of unruly behaviour by members of the security forces was an indictment on Mnangagwa whose government is paying them slave wages.
Although soldiers and police offices are paid more than other civil servants, their salaries have been eroded by inflation, forcing some of them into crime to supplement their income.
Most military men and women, who helped Mnangagwa to wrest power from the late former President Robert Mugabe in a November 2017 coup, are also struggling.
But Mnangagwa yesterday promised to address their welfare.
“On the welfare side, my government is committed to improve the conditions of service of the ZDF members,” Mnangagwa said.
“Meanwhile, I challenge the ZDF administration to accelerate the completion of accommodation projects underway at Imbizo, Dzivarasekwa and Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo barracks.”
Last year, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri admitted that soldiers were engaging in criminal activities at the country’s ports of entry, attributing such behaviour to low morale due to the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
She also spoke of a shortage of necessities in barracks, including food and transport.
Mnangagwa said his government would equip the ZDF with modern technologies to enable them to ward off domestic and international threats.
“My administration will thus continue to equip the defence forces with reliable means and technological capacities towards defending our dignity, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as advancing our legitimate economic development interests at home and abroad,” he said.
The Airforce of Zimbabwe (AFZ) has been struggling with antiquated flying equipment owing to lack of investments into its hangar since independence.
Over the past two months, the AFZ lost two of its old helicopters in separate crashes, one of them fatal.
Mnangagwa said the army should be alive to any sinister moves.
“In this context, any sinister activities or clandestine machinations aimed at derailing and undermining national security will be exposed and perpetrators appropriately dealt with,” Mnangagwa said.
Although accused by most Western countries and in a number of United Nations reports of violating human rights and using the army to quash opposing voices in a shrinking Zimbabwean democracy, Mnangagwa said his regime respected peace.
“We are a peaceful nation and a God-fearing people who uphold the international peace, justice and the rule of law as anchors for a prosperous global world and shared future,” he said.