Zimbabwe seems on the verge of a revolt by uniformed forces amid reports that some unpaid rank and file members have joined mass protests demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe and his administration.
The defence force leaders are credited with keeping Mugabe in power since independence in 1980 but ordinary officers are frustrated by failure to pay their salaries, for the umpteenth time, sparking an unprecedented move to protest.
Officers speaking to CAJ News on condition of anonymity expressed solidarity with the protesting masses, pointing out they also were not exempt from the economic crisis besetting the country.
“We have families to look after, so the protests that you are seeing here setting Harare alight have involved some of us,” said a soldier.
A flight air commando from the Manyame Airbase outside Harare expressed disappointment at not receiving his salary on Friday. The officer said they were also affected by rampant corruption.
Zimbabwe has simply run of currency, a few years after it shelved its worthless Zimbabwe dollar which at the country’s peak was one of the most lucrative currencies.
Ironically, security personnel have responded heavy-handedly to the protests, incurring widespread condemnation. Police have arrested 87 people in connection with last week’s violent protests.
“My warning to the police is that they must stop using force against civilians, otherwise we will soon take up arms to defend the masses,” said the air force commando.
In a separate interview, an officer with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) said he was no longer taking orders from his superiors when it came to arresting civilians suspected of instigating violent protests. “Despite being law enforcers, we know corruption is the root cause of these problems,” he said.
More protests are scheduled for the major cities of Harare and Bulawayo this week.