NYANGA – UP to 500 soldiers from the Zimbabwe Defences Forces (ZDF) deserted the army during the past few years, a senior army officer has revealed.
Major General Martin Chedondo, the army’s Chief of Staff, made the revelation when officiating at a graduation ceremony for 60 soldiers who had successfully completed six months training programme on Group Company Commanders Course and Platoon Commanders’ Course.
The ceremony was held at the All Arms Battle School in Nyanga.
While addressing the grandaunts, Major General Chedondo said the 500 soldiers who deserted the army were “cowards” who had failed to “withstand the heat”.
However, army sources said Major General Chedondo was being conservative with the figures suggesting the number of deserters could be much higher.
“We have between 400 and 500 members of the force who were coward enough to have deserted the army because of the difficult conditions,” Major General Chedondo said.
He said those who deserted did so at time when the country was facing serious challenges ad needed them most.
But Major General Chedondo said they have now managed to wither the storm and all was now well in the army. “Those who celebrated that the Defence Forces were now torn apart should try it and see,” he said.
The senior military man said the difficulties had been caused by “illegal sanctions” imposed by the Western World.
Zimbabwe has faced serious economic and political which observers and analysts blame on skewed policies by President Mugabe’s Zanu PF political party, which enjoyed 28-years of unfettered rule. But President Mugabe and his lieutenants blame the problems on Western countries which they say wanted to effect a regime change in Zimbabwe.
During the past turbulent eight years millions of Zimbabwean’s, both skilled and unskilled, fled the country to seek a better life in the Diaspora.
Soldiers also deserted the army and fled out of the country’s borders. Many of them joined the British military while others were scattered in neighboring countries prompting the Zanu PF government to claim they had been recruited by the MDC, then in opposition, to invade the country with the help of countries such as Botswana.
The claims were shot down by both the MDC and the Batswana government.
The two rival political parties are now in a coalition government.
Major General Chedondo, meanwhile, told the graduants in Nyanga that the inclusive government should be supported for the country to move forward.
He said the leaders should always remember the country was freed from colonial rule by the blood of thousands of young Zimbabweans and should therefore not allow anybody to reverse the “gains” of independence.