DEFENCE Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has defended the recruitment of soldiers saying the Zimbabwe National Army had a deficit of 4 000 soldiers.
REPORT BY SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
Mnangagwa was responding to a question by Chinhoyi MP Stewart Garadhi in the House of Assembly on Wednesday who wanted him to justify why the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) kept recruiting trainee soldiers when the fiscus was underperforming.
“The current authorised strength is 40 000 members and currently we stand at only 36 000, falling short by 4 000,” Mnangagwa said.
“Presently, the filled posts are well below the authorised strength and there is no over-recruitment as there has been death and retirement, among other factors.
The force’s strength continues to dwindle resulting in the need to replace the retired and dead members by recruiting new members into the system.”
Mnangagwa said it should also be borne in mind that the majority of members who founded the ZNA were former freedom fighters, who, since 1980, have attained retirement age.
“The youngest of such members at independence was 18 years of age and 33 years down the line those members are now 51 years old and have to retire according to the regulations. Any pause in replacing members wasted through retirement, resignations, deaths, court martial dismissals and other causes, creates shortfalls which take time to fill thereby affecting the strength of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and its effectiveness,” he said.
The minister said the ZDF, therefore, needed to continuously recruit as part of the replacement process.
“For ZDF to achieve total defence of the nation and uphold its constitutional mandate, it must always be ready to respond to any threats at any time in the correct strength and correct level of training. It is important to note that security goes beyond physical protection, but it also covers other pillars like human, environment, economic and political aspects of national security in order to fulfill the purpose of defending the nation,” he said.
He added that training of ZDF members was a process and not an event, while explaining to the legislators that it took six months to train a general duty soldier and 18 months to train an officer cadet, resulting in threats in national security if those gaps were not filled by new recruitment.