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Friday 31 October  
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (C) is accompanied by army generals during th
Harare, Zimbabwe
Harare, Zimbabwe

Young southern Zimbabweans shun the army

Published on : 21 July 2014 - 12:45pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Bishop Asare/EPA)
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Young men and women from Matabeleland in southern Zimbabwe are shunning recruitment in the army, largely because of bitterness over past military atrocities. The so-called Gukurahundi in the early 1980s claimed an estimated 20,000 innocent civilians, who were executed by the army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.

As published by our partner Radio VOP 

Since the 1980s the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has been struggling to attract sufficient numbers from the Matabeleland provinces, say military sources. Whenever recruitment for general or officer cadet training courses is done, the ten provinces are supposed to contribute equal numbers of recruits.

“We tend to get overwhelming responses from other provinces, but we always have a headache getting interested recruits from Matabeleland South and North. Bulawayo is not much of a problem because it is a mixed urban province,” a senior officer told The Zimbabwean daily recently. 

Criteria relaxed
During the 2014 officer cadet screening exercise, the army recruiting office had the same problem and was forced to relax its conditions in order to meet the quotas from southern Zimbabwe. The selections took place in several provinces and wound up at the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA) just outside Gweru, the Midlands provincial capital, last month. Each province was supposed to contribute about 75 recruits.

“The maximum recruitment age is 22 years, but in order to get enough numbers, we ended up accepting aspiring officer cadets well beyond the limit. We also relaxed the requirement on education and were forced to consider some who had not passed O-level English or maths,” says another source.

Fifth Brigade atrocities
Because of the need to fill the quotas for the southern regions, army aspirants from other regions who turned out overwhelmingly and had good passes at A-level, missed out as the military bent over backwards to accommodate defaulting provinces.

Young people from the southern area still resent the army because of the atrocities its North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade committed during the so-called Gukurahundi in the early 1980s, which claimed an estimated 20,000 innocent civilians, according to the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).

Joshua Nkomo
President Robert Mugabe unleashed the Fifth Brigade in the region purportedly to suppress a military uprising by the late Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu. The crackdown was based on military intelligence information that claimed that Zapu was sponsoring dissidents who planned to violently overthrow Mugabe’s government following the party’s defeat in the 1980 majority general elections that removed white minority rule.

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In his memoirs, The Story of My Life, and at other forums, Nkomo vehemently denied the claim and accused Mugabe of political victimisation.

The army, working in collaboration with other state security agencies, also cracked down on parts of the Midlands where CCJP said entire families were wiped out.

Jobs come first
“These young men might be too young to have witnessed Gukurahundi, but their parents and relatives keep reminding them. The ghost remains and a large section of the population from that region see the army as the animal that wanted to wipe them out,” a source says.

In addition, the resistance to military recruitment is fuelled by young people preferring to go to South Africa and Botswana to look for jobs, instead of the rigours of army training.

The army public relations office had not responded to e-mailed questions sent more than a week ago at the time when The Zimbabwean went to print.  


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Anonymous 28 July 2014 - 2:54pm / Zimbabwe

The late vice president John Nkomo Called for Peace peace peace....& we Zimbambweans we say peace. ...peace. ....
Zimbabwe is our country we will defend it together as 1eft, right & center.
Too hell with traitors. ..!!!

stanford 25 July 2014 - 4:46pm / zim

every country has got its own history, well the bad part about this issue is that you want to influence zimbabweans by whatever way posssible but to be honest a deal was made between the people involved in this issue of Gukurahundi and reconcilliation was accepted by both sides ,i do not understand why you people from outside the circle keep on talking about this issue?Zimbabweans lets focus on how best we can solve the current problems thaat we have and built our nation .one thing for sure we will one day emerge as one of the strongest economies in the world

ahmed mido 25 July 2014 - 2:49pm / south africa

Gukura hundi. Mugabe kill a lot off ndebeles it waz not nice anymore it waz painfull

Anonymous 24 July 2014 - 3:14pm / Zimbabwe

Need i remind Zimbabwean that the insurgence and the actions thereafter had no tribal connotations. If its an insurgence any rightful thinking leader would like to suppress it. I think a lot of solders participated in it including some people from the south. It was not a tribal war and people should stop tribalising it as it taints Zimbabwe's history. it also had civil war issues written all over it. Who would not want to suppress an insurgence.

Bright 24 July 2014 - 10:34am / Zimbabwe

Serving in the Zimbabwe National Army is a very good opportunity as jobs are hard to come by in our country .Instead of searching for jobs in South Africa and Botswana working for our government is a good idea . Our youths are the ones who struggle most finding jobs ,high rise in crimes thieves , prostitutes increases . I would like to serve in the Army as well can you help me .

Liberty dhombo 24 July 2014 - 7:43am / Southafrica

Im a man of 22years of age with 6 olevel subject i want to save my country as a cadet bt no idea

Interested 23 July 2014 - 11:11pm / zimbabwe

i am 20 years old and i would like to serve my country as a cadet , i have 5 o'levels including Science ,Maths and English .what can i do ?.

Interested 23 July 2014 - 11:10pm / zimbabwe

i am 20 years old and i would like to serve my country as a cadet , i have 5 o'levels including Science ,Maths and English .what can i do ?.

Interested 23 July 2014 - 5:09pm / Zimbabwe

what can i do am 29 but very interested in serving my country. tried my level best when i was still young but none of my applications were getting replies

byson 23 July 2014 - 1:15pm / zambia

From my own point of view, the GUKURAHUNDI was quite necessary. Of cause war by its nature had its extremes !

Brian Chinungo 22 July 2014 - 4:13pm / zambia

i would like to know everything about.........

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