The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has embarked on a recruitment drive despite government struggling to meet its US$155 million monthly wage bill for the entire civil service, translating to over 70% of the national budget.
Military sources said the army is on a recruitment drive countrywide for officer cadets, medical cadets, general duty (GD) soldiers and technical/specialist personnel.
While the candidates have not yet been interviewed, the army has already invited applications from the suitably qualified through structures aligned to Zanu PF. These include chiefs, MPs and serving soldiers.
Zimbabwe’s standing army is estimated at about 40 000, a bloated figure given government is broke.
The recruitment exercise comes at a time the hard-pressed Zanu PF government is struggling to meet its day-to-day running costs, which has resulted in delays in civil servants’ salary payments, erratic food supplies in the barracks and shortages of uniforms, among other problems.
Contacted for comment director of army public relations lieutenant colonel Overson Mugwisi referred all questions on the recruitment to army spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Alphias Makotore.
“All recruitments are done by the army. Can you send all your questions to Colonel Makotore,” Mugwisi said.
Makotore, however, said he would only respond to written questions.
Last week government delayed payment of salaries for the majority of its workers by two days from March 25 to March 27. It is still to implement a pay increase awarded to civil servants last November.
The country’s prolonged economic downturn has forced government to cut down on defence spending.
Last week reports said morale was plunging among the security services after the salary delay and failure to implement the promised pay rise.
“We were shocked that we got payslips which indicated we were going to get our increments but a week before pay day, a circular was sent out showing the increment will only come in April,” an army officer in the presidential guard was quoted as saying.
This paper recently reported the ZNA ordered soldiers to look for alternative accommodation in order to reduce the number of army personnel staying in barracks.
This was said to be part of the army’s cost-cutting measures as the country continues to struggle to recover from a protracted economic malaise.
In 2008 President Robert Mugabe faced threats of unrest from the military at the height of the country’s economic meltdown and hyperinflation when disgruntled soldiers rioted in Harare after frustration over queuing to withdraw worthless Zimdollars from banks.
Sources also said army bosses have briefed their troops about the underfunding situation which has seen soldiers bringing their own food to cook inside the camps.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has admitted the country’s economy is deteriorating after Zanu PF and Mugabe’s controversial win in last year’s election tainted by rigging allegations.
In 2013 then ministers of Finance and Defence, Tendai Biti and Emmerson Mnangagwa respectively, clashed over the secret recruitments of army personnel despite government imposing a freeze on all government appointments to curb the wage bill.