Over 3,000 disgruntled junior-ranking soldiers and police officers have applied for discharge from service, as discontent over poor salaries and working conditions mounts in the security forces. Zimbabwe's army is estimated at around 40,000 soldiers, while the police force employs about 25,000 men and women. Together the forces form the bedrock of President Robert Mugabe's rule.
Authoritative sources say most of those wishing to quit submitted their resignation letters between October and November last year, indicating that they want to leave government service between this month and next month. The great majority have served for five years or less.
Although few of them have explicitly cited poor pay or working conditions in their letters, senior commanders confirm that these are the main reasons young officers want to leave, warning that many more are expected to apply for discharge during the year as economic hardships worsen.
"The boys are tired of living from hand to mouth and many of them say they feel it is better to go into informal trading than continue to be overworked for peanuts," said a senior officer in the discharges section at national police headquarters in Harare, who asked not to be named. "These guys cannot supplement their incomes while still serving because that will land them in trouble with their commanders, who do not approve of serving police officers or soldiers engaging in informal trading."