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Desertions Remain A Major Concern In Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's government is now facing another problem: huge desertions of junior and middle-ranking army and police officers. During the past 12 weeks, more than 2,000 junior officers have submitted their letters of resignation from the National Army. Likewise, more than 700 junior officers have reportedly handed in their letters of resignation from the police. Runaway inflation of 585 percent has severely eroded the buying power of many Zimbabweans -- including poorly paid junior police and army officers.

Political analyst Masamvu Sydney of the International Crisis Group’s Southern Africa Regional Office told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje, “The desertions pose a major security threat to President Robert Mugabe’s government.” He says the mass desertions encourage “further disaffection and threaten the army’s stability.” Mr. Sydney adds that aside from the economic issue, political disgruntlement may be a factor behind the desertions.

The Zimbabwean affairs specialist says some of the deserting officers are turning to crime for survival. He says the officers now engage in what he calls “coordinated crimes and extortion – which are becoming an increasing threat to the public.” Mr. Sydney says President Mugabe is trying to stem the tide by ordering “a review of the military’s pay and salary structure.” The objective, he says, is to create preferential treatment to ensure the military’s continued support.