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Zimbabwe Army Accused of Recruiting Militia To Shore Up Mugabe

The Zimbabwe National Army has reversed its decision not to recruit more soldiers as it intensifies its operations to prop President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party ahead of possible general elections.

Citing budgetary constraints, Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa last year announced the army was going to downsize from 55,000 to 40,000.

He said Zimbabwe did not “harbor any aggressive intentions and would not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries” raising the need for army to be streamlined.

But this week in an interview on the sidelines of a training exercise in Mutoko, Mashonaland East province on Tuesday, Major General Martin Chedondo said the army will lower its standards to accommodate youths from all villages into the army in its latest recruitment drive.

Army sources say recruitment started in January through out the country. This comes amid reports that most soldiers were going on forced leave because of inadequate food supplies in the barracks.

The security forces, coordinated by the Joint Operations Command, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, are sympathetic to Zanu PF and are plotting ways to shore up Mr. Mugabe's campaign.

Morale is said to be very low in the army forcing many to quit. Unprofessionalism and low salaries are said to be the major contributors to the massive resignations.

About 50 top army and police officers - ranking from colonel to major-general - were reportedly in Mutare two weeks ago for a meeting on elections with the Zanu PF's provincial coordinating committee at Mount St Mary’ Teachers College in Manicaland province.

Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya, a PhD candidate at Westminster University in London, told VOA that Chedondo's utterances show the army is building a militia and not a professional army.