9 March 2008

Zimbabwe: Army Cuts Back On Recruitment

Bulawayo — The army has been forced to reduce its annual recruitment due to what is described as "perennial under-funding", it has been learnt.

Since independence in 1980, the army has recruited soldiers every three to four months but the frequency has been reduced to save scarce funds.

The cutbacks have been implemented despite a flood of desertions of soldiers fleeing low pay and deteriorating living conditions in the barracks.

Army spokesperson, Samuel Tsatsi confirmed the quarterly recruitments had been shelved over budgetary constraints.

According to army insiders, the quarterly recruitment exercises were eating into most of the army's budget.

They said on a number of occasions the army had failed to feed the recruits, some of whom had abandoned the rigorous training exercise midway.

Last year, the army lowered entry qualifications to cater for non-holders of the Ordinary Level Certificate, in an effort to lure more youths into the force.

"It is a huge and beneficial cost-cutting measure," said a source. "But it does not mean that all the recruits would join the army at the same time after the one-off recruitment exercise held across the country.

"Instead, the recruits will join the army on a quarterly basis as was the practice in the past."

The army is reportedly struggling to cope with massive resignations and desertions, and frequent recruitments are the only way to ensure adequate staff levels.

There are reports that non-commissioned officers formed the bulk of those leaving for greener pastures on a regular basis. The commissioned officers and war veterans are said to have remained loyal.

Soldiers can renew their contracts after three, seven and 10 years respectively but due to the poor working conditions, many are opting out before they even complete a year in service.

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