THE Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), which last year introduced forced pay leave for soldiers as a cost cutting measure, is struggling to feed soldiers in army barracks countrywide, it has emerged.
Military sources this week said the barracks have been running without adequate food supplies forcing soldiers to improvise and look for alternative food sources.
ZNA public relations director Alphios Makotore denied the army was facing an acute food shortage, although he admitted the economic climate was negatively affecting their operations.
“It is not true that Zimbabwe National Army barracks are now facing an acute shortage of food supplies.
“Food supplies in the ZNA are normal but the organisation like any other in the country has not been spared by the difficult economic situation obtaining.
“As highlighted above, there is no crisis in the ZNA. Thus the organisation remains committed in upholding its mandate as spelt out in the Constitution,” Makotore said.
Other sources, however, said the food shortages were dire.
“There were no supplies in Gutu (4,2 Combat group) barracks since Friday last week,” the source said.
“Supplies only came yesterday (Tuesday) but we are not sure whether the new supplies will take us through the forthcoming week,” the source said adding: “It was only rice that was delivered.”
Sources at the Commando Regiment headquarters in Cranborne also said food supplies were in short supply since the beginning of January.
“We no longer have breakfast. Lunch is provided but very few officers do eat in the canteen because it is mainly sadza and beans or at times cabbages. If it is not beans or vegetables then it will be sadza and sour milk which comes in bulk from Gushungo Dairy,” the source said.
Military sources also said Bulawayo’s 1 Brigade and Imbizo barracks have been hard hit by food shortages resulting in soldiers and army recruits surviving on boiled cabbages and beans.
Since 2013, the ZNA has been operating on a shoestring budget resulting in military bosses ordering soldiers to look for alternative accommodation, in a desperate effort to reduce costs by limiting the number of personnel staying in barracks.
This, however, comes at a time when the Defence ministry was allocated US$358 million by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in his 2016 budget statement.
Last year, ZNA ordered its members to go on forced one-month paid leave after every month in an effort to reduce expenditure on food bills, utilities and other expenses at barracks.
ZNA later introduced a forced two-weeks break for soldiers every month as a cost cutting measure, but ZNA members revealed that they were expected to be off duty for a month after every month.
This means members of ZNA effectively work for six months a year although they may be recalled at no notice should there be an emergency.
The army is reportedly, in addition to shortages of food, also struggling with basics such as uniforms.
This week Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi admitted things are not well in the army and assured troops that his ministry was working tirelessly to improve their conditions of service, which have deteriorated over the years owing to poor economic conditions, which Zanu PF blames on sanctions although critics say it is because of the party’s ruinous economic policies.
“I know that for now there are challenges. These facilities are not adequate but you can be sure that the government is doing everything in its power to make sure that we have decent accommodation,” he said while addressing students of the joint command and staff on the country’s Defence Policy at the Zimbabwe Staff College.