Zimbabwe - Military Personnel

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) is estimated at approximately 40,000 members. Zimbabwe allocates 4% of the GDP for military expenditures. No HIV prevalence data were available for the armed forces. ZANU-PF has maintained its structures throughout Zimbabwe and there are reports of intimidation and occasional violence, particularly in Mashonaland. There are reportedly about 20,000 youths on the civil service rolls who are performing no jobs; their activities are coordinated by ZANU-PF officials and national and local military officials. Additionally, there are thousands of youths in resettled areas. Without jobs and educational opportunity, they are subject to manipulation by ZANU-PF.

Mugabe’s administration appeared poised for a major security sector shake-up after gazetting new defense regulations that lowered retirement ages for personnel serving in the uniformed forces. In May 2016 Government gazetted Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2016 titled Defence (Regular Force) (Officers) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (No. 7). The SI repeals the Defence Regulations SI 135 (No.6) of 2014. The SI serves as much as the law for six months, subject to its renewal or annulment. All soldiers would retired at the age of 50 years, down from the previous 60 years, unless if one has been asked to continue serving at the recommendation of the defence minister. A permanent service officer who has continued to serve in terms of subsection 4(a) (that is after attaining the age of 50) shall retire on attaining the age of 55 years unless if the President, on recommendation of the minister, considers that it is desirable in the public interest. An officer who is a war veteran may continue to serve for a period of five years until he or she attains the age of 65 years.

At the time of the cease-fire the RSF were made up of 15,000 regulars, 20,000 white-led territorials, 25,000 auxilliaries, 5,000 Guard Force and the Selous Scouts, and a 1,500 man strong Air Force. At indepedence, the new government, through its restructured military high command, undertook to change the racial and political composition of the armed fores, an effort designed to reflect the nationalists' political victory. 1y 1982 the process of integrating the two guerrilla armies with the former Rhodesian Security Forces had been offic ially completed, and the steady departure of white servicemen continued. Concurrent government attempts to demobilize significant numbers of soldiers proceeded despite constraints imposed by political, administrative, and security considerations.

One of the major problems of the demobilization effort was that 7 years of guerrilla war had left many young soldiers who knew no other life than that of the bush, the AK-47 and fights against the whites, and whose political education had been limited for the most part to crude pseudo-Marxist ideology. Their post-independence aspirations were usually limited to obtaining the elements necessary for "the good life" which they believed their fight had earned them. What was to greet many of them was unemployment. The arrival on the economy of large numbers of young undisciplined youths could have nefarious effects on the social and economic life of the new nation.

In October 1980 Mugabe finally cracked down on what he called "dissident elements and misguided party militants" by sending troops from the national army into rural trouble spots and by reinforcing police patrols in the cities. The measures were effective where they were used; but there were not enough troops to police the entire country, and "drunken rampages" continued to be reported as well as major ZANLA-ZIPRA clashes in the Salisbury township of Chitungwiza and in Bulawayo. In February 1981 the prime minister reemphasized his reliance on the national army by calling in the air force, white reservists, and two white-led battalions of what had been the black, elite Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR)to quell a major clash between former ZANLA and ZIPRA members of the national army.

Beginning at about the same time Mugabe moved to bring the guerrillas under direct government control by integrating virtually all of them into the national army. Earlier integration plans emphasized the effectiveness of the army rather than the social problem posed by the guerrillas and envisioned the amalgamation with the former Rhodesian forces of no more than 10,000 ZIPRA and ZANLA soldiers. Although the 1981 integration into the national army of most of the remaining 50,000 guerrillas diluted the quality of the army as a whole, it was viewed as a success because most of the civil violence ended and the guerrillas were brought under Mugabe's control. In August 1981 ZANU-PF dissolved its ZANLA military organization, as all the former ZANLA guerrillas had either been incorporated into the national army or demobilized.

The regular national army expanded fivefold to 60,000 in less than two years to absorb guerrillas from Mugabe's and Nkomo's liberation armies. Thirty months after independence the national army had a personnel strength of about 49,000-down from 60,000 six months earlier with the headquarters of major units located in five of the country's major cities. The air force was authorized a strength of 2,900, over twice the size of the service during the civil war, but it was largely composed of trainees and nontechnical ground personnel. Former guerrillas made up the bulk of the armed forces' manpower. Almost all of the more than 7,000 Africans who had served with the Rhodesian army and air force remained; but of the whites who formerly dominated the armed forces, less than 1,000 of 6,000 remained in the regular military establishment, and about half of them were in the air force. During the 1960s it was expected that the character of the Zimbabwe Defence Force would continue to change as white personnel departed, as other soldiers were gradually demobilized and, Zimbabwean officials hoped, as it assumed the identity and military effectiveness of a unified establishment.

In 1982 the Zimbabwe army was being reduced in size from 60,000 to an eventual level of 40,000. In a total population of some 7.5 million, one out of every 125 Zimbabweans was in uniform. Conscription, which had been practiced in the Rhodesian era, had been abolished by Mugabe in March 1980. Reserves included the all-white Territorial Army of approximately 6,000 members, down from 10,000 at independence. The Zimbabwe Republic Police also served as a military reserve and, in the case of domestic unrest, the first line of response. Plans were under way in 1982 to form a paramilitary training program for army veterans and youths that would function as a military reserve in emergencies. The number of soldiers in the country was reduced considerably after the end of the war mainly by the demobilization of units in the Rhodesian Security Forces that began shortly after the 1980 election.

During that year police and military reserves were released from active duty, and several active units were disbanded; some 90 percent of the African auxiliaries loyal to Muzorewa and Sithole were released, as were the Guard Force and smaller specialized paramilitary forces. As a result the erstwhile Rhodesian component of the Zimbabwe armed forces was reduced to a core of 12,000 army regulars-7,000 Africans (mainly enlisted men) and 5,000 whites (a large proportion of whom were officers).

Demobilizing or integrating the former guerrillas in fourteen assembly areas was more difficult; their numbers had risen from nearly 3,000 at independence to more than 50,000 over the next eighteen months. The first groups of guerrillas to .eport to the assembly camps included a high proportion of mujibas (young followers of the guerrilla armies), as both ZAAU-PF and PF-ZAPU held back their best troops. After independence 3,000 ZIPRA troops returned from Libya, 1,000 from Yugoslavia, 1,000 from Romania, and 2,000 from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; an additional 2,000 returned from Angola in October 1981. ZANU-PF likewise withheld some 5,000 of its troops in Mozambique until mid-1981.

The demobilization and integration plans thus had to be constantly modified and adapted to fit the changing situation. Initial assessments by British military advisers, who played the central role in rebuilding the army, indicated that a combined program of integration and demobilization would take six months to complete with nearly 10,000 former guerrillas integrated into an army that would have a total personnel strength of about 20,000.

A phased demobilization of the guerrillas (two-thirds of whom were members of ZANLA) was to coincide with the integration program Of those not integrated, some were to be released outright, while the rest (approximately 20,000) were to be placed in paramilitary service in agricultural camps (under the short-lived Operation SEED). The initial guerrilla demobilization effort in May 1980 involved the outright release, with a Z$350 bonus for each man, of approximately 8,000 former insurgents. The program was quickly suspended when officials realized that the economy and society could not readily absorb large numbers of Zimbabweans trained only in weapons handling. Most of those released were reported to have returned to the assembly camps when their bonus money ran out, blending back into the army.

In August 1981 the government announced that it would begin a Z$116 million program to reduce the national army by as many as 30,000. Each demobilized soldier was to be given Z$185 each month for up to two years in addition to educational and training benefits. Roughly 6,500 soldiers-3,000 men and 3,500 women-were demobilized during the last three months of 1981. The women, all of them former ZANLA guerrillas, were released with only a small monetary bonus. The program was suspended, however, when the Demobilization Directorate within the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare was unable to work out a system to trace, identify, and pay the veterans who had left the service. Demobilization was resumed several months later when nine infantry battalions (about 9,500 men) were demobilized between May and August 1982.

Further reductions in the army's personnel strength were made in the context of the formation of a paramilitary training program and in the expansion ofa 1,500 police paramilitary force. The paramilitary training program, administered by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, and Recreation, was aimed at Zimbabweans aged eighteen to thirty-five, including demobilized veterans. The program was to be established by soldiers giving paramilitary instructions at training centers located in each of the country's eight provinces. The eventual size of the force was not known, but the government appeared to be serious about the program as a means of reducing unemployment and was seeking to ensure its success by careful planning and assessment of its goals and resources.

As of 2009 available information indicated that there were approximately 600 Zimbabwe citizens enlisted in the British Army. A report by the British Army dated 14 October 2008, states that there are approximately 600 Zimbabwean citizens in the British Army. On 13 September 2006, BBC News also reported that there were 565 Zimbabwean soldiers enlisted in the British Army.

Reports located indicate that the Zimbabwean government and media had been critical of Zimbabwean citizens who have enlisted in the British army. On 21 April 2003, Times Online reported that the parents of a Zimbabwean British soldier, who died whilst serving in Iraq, were “questioned by Zimbabwe’s secret police over their son’s role in the British Army”. The report states that the soldier, Christopher Muzvuru, had been “vilified in Zimbabwe’s pro-government press” for fighting in the British Army. According to the report the soldiers parents “fear retribution by the Government or by ruling party vigilantes”. The state-controlled daily The Herald portrayed Private Muzvuru in a cartoon as a “Buffalo Soldier”, a black unit in the United States cavalry described by the reggae singer Bob Marley as a group of ex-slaves exploited by whites.

On 22 December 2002, Reuters News reported that Zimbabwe had accused the Britain Army of conducting a recruitment drive for Zimbabweans. The report cites the Zimbabwean Information Minister who is reported to have stated that “Zimbabweans who joined a “hostile foreign army” risked losing their citizenship”. The report also cites an “unnamed observer” who stated that individuals “who join the British forces could be “inviting unnecessary trouble” on their families”. The report states that Britain has dismissed the accusation of holding a recruitment drive for Zimbabwean soldiers.

A report dated, 17 January 2006, published by The Mercury and located on the Zimbabwe Situation website reports on the large number of desertions and applications for resignation from the Zimbabwean Police Force and Army. The report provides information on a junior officer who deserted the army after unsuccessfully attempting to resign. According to the report the officer was questioned following his letter of resignation and accused of wanting to “work with enemies of Zimbabwe”. The officer is cited as stating that “they even insinuated I was going to join the British army, which was all nonsense”.

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