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‘Army morale at rock bottom’

DEFENCE minister Oppah Muchinguri sensationally told Parliament yesterday that morale among members of the Zimbabwe National Army had hit rock bottom as a result of the failing economy and that many were now tempted to engage in corrupt activities to make ends meet. BY MOSES MATENGA/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA Muchinguri was appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs led by acting chairperson Chiredzi South MP Kalisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF), where she outlined a myriad of challenges soldiers are facing in the discharge of their duties, including hunger, inadequate transport and obsolete machinery. The challenges, Muchinguri said, had also impacted negatively on efforts by the army to effectively assist the police in enforcing COVID-19 national lockdown regulations, insisting that temptations for corruption come in situations where security forces do not have food. “As I have indicated that at our borders, we have a stretch of 3 000 kilometres and really, when you are not well-resourced in terms of transport and also food, this challenge that you mention of the allegations that you level, temptation comes in some situations,” Muchinguri said. She was responding to allegations that soldiers and police officers were demanding bribes to facilitate passage for returnees sneaking into the country without being screened. Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe three weeks ago named the opposition, churches, civic society organisations, senior government and military officials in a plot to oust President Emmerson Mnangagwa. There has been speculation that, Mnangagwa, who came to power through a coup in November 2017, would also be deposed through a coup by soldiers unhappy with the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic situation in a decade, characterised by hyperinflation, liquidity challenges and shortage of basic goods, observers say were a result of bad governance and policy inconsistency. But Muchinguri yesterday blamed the deplorable situation in the military barracks on sanctions, before pleading with the committee to make resources available to her ministry in order to restore the dignity of the military. She added: “As I have already alluded to, that because we are not adequately resourced, our soldiers do not have the rations that must accrue to them, hence the temptation where they require food. We have heard about it, we are investigating to establish where this is happening.” The Defence minister said soldiers were not only victims of hunger, but also at high risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19 as they do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). She said Treasury had not availed adequate funds to her ministry to buy PPE for soldiers. “Constraints such as shortage of PPE are serious challenges to their effectiveness and safety. Inadequate funding for food, transport and fuel which became perennial after the imposition of illegal sanctions, also take its toll on both the morale of the troops and effectiveness,” Muchingur

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