By Dr Masimba Mavaza | The Zimbabwe National Army is a professional and disciplined team, with a long tradition of service to the country and it used to have strong public support. Its job is often difficult, dangerous and demanding; so in order to do it, the Army needs to have high standards of behaviour all the time. These are Values and Standards of our soldiers.
The Values should guide and develop the army into the sort of people they should be: the Standards explain how the army should behave.
The Army profession is built on a foundation of discipline and standards. Discipline and standards are intrinsic within the Army culture of trust. Discipline guide the manner of performance. Soldiers are expected to conduct themselves according to the discipline of the military art and science. With discipline, they chose the hard right over the easy wrong in the face of temptation, obstacles, and adversity.”
It’s not an exaggeration when its stated that the Army have been forced to do more with less. With the current operational tempo, they have ongoing operations in many parts of the world where they are called to serve as peace keepers. Currently our soldiers are in Mozambique fighting the islamic rebels together with other soldiers from the region.A whole generation of Soldiers grew up in the Army, that have not known anything else but the ARFORGEN cycle. They train for deployment, redeploy, retrain and deploy again, wash, rinse and repeat. This frenetic operational tempo caused the Army over time to pay less attention on discipline issues in order to accomplish the mission. Zimbabwe has witnessed Soldiers who are failing to meet basic Army standards such as basic discipline. These are the soldiers who have applied their training on the civilians and became robbers in army uniform. Those Soldiers who have not seen combat and allowed to stay in the ranks resulted in perception of double standards and indiscipline. The idle soldiers are over-stretched middle ranked officers, high stress levels and the fragile soldier- public relationship are increasingly taking a toll on discipline, the cornerstone upon which the tradition name, fame, and valour of the armed forces is built.
Today, the name soldier is synonymous with armed robbery. The most discussed topic in Zimbabwe now is about the armed forces and the steady decline of standards of discipline. “The good old days” are remembered with pride and the present ‘state of affairs’ are often deplored.
The discussion of conformity and rebellion of Zimbabwean Soldiers within the frame of military discipline and punishment is done under the armpits. Issues involving the military were discussed away from the public domain. But this thick curtain has been lifted by the indiscipline and robberies being committed. It is the public which nears the brunt of this cruel barbaric behaviour by our soldiers.
One of the factors that enabled the soldiers of the immediate Post independence era to endure terrible conditions and less pay was discipline. Military discipline makes the difference between a mob and an army. It is a form of behaviour that is the consequence of training and indoctrination, designed to ensure compliance to orders among individuals and groups, to create and maintain cohesion in military units. The fact that we now have robberies gang dights street fights shooting of civilians public drinking in uniform and armed is evidence that discipline is the glue that holds groups together and makes them act as one in response to orders.
Our soldiers need brutal training to mould them as an army. Our soldiers uses to be drawn upon a pool of recruits, some of which were already accustomed to industrial discipline in factories and other workplaces. QAll working-class soldiers would have been used to being at the bottom of society, with all that entailed. Even so, all armies subjected new recruits to basic training which ranged from the unpleasant to the brutal, the aim being to break down the individuality of the new soldiers and to mould them into a group that would carry out orders unquestioningly.
Discipline was operated with a carrot-and-stick approach. Conforming brought benefits: regular food, leave and other privileges. Rebelling incurred punishments, which differed from battalion to battalion. Most were fairly minor stoppage of privileges, giving offenders unpleasant or dangerous duties. Sometimes the command will use Field Punishment: the most severe version including tying a malefactor to a fixed object for a period of time. Although much resented, this was more humane than the traditional punishment of flogging.
Soldiers used to know their main duties. They list main duties as obedience; cleanliness; sobriety and honesty.
The boys wore the uniform with pride.
Mutiny was the gravest military crime, for it struck at the very heart of military discipline, and desertion was not far behind for similar reasons. Sometimes the purpose was to act as a warning or deterrent to others, with the justice of sentences passed on individuals of less importance than the disciplinary needs of the army. There were certainly cases, perhaps numerous ones, of psychiatric casualties (soldiers who have sustained mental wounds) being shot. Civilian justice and military discipline served two different purposes.
So stealing a fire arm was taken as preparation of mutiny. So it was so serious that only commissioned officers will take fire arms to their houses.
Discipline is an important factor in holding armies together, but it is not the only one. The army should be taught an individual, belief in the cause, loyalty to unit and/or comrades, leadership and other issues, this should be significant.
Being a soldier is not easy. The soldiers are asked to do things not asked of other people. They have to be aggressive and strong in battle, yet behave properly and show self-control all the time. They are not trained to be at war with the civilians.
The nation has to trust the army and the army has to be trustworthy.
Soldiers have to be courageous,
disciplined, respect others and show love the civilians not by robbing them. They must have integrity and loyalty and selfless commitments. Robbery is a selfish adventure and is a sign of gross indiscipline.
If then army is to live by its Values, then the Standards are clear. The Army’s Standards are designed to ensure that all their behaviour is lawful, appropriate and totally professional.
Low standards, both professional and personal, damage the team. This might cause failure on operations, with soldiers getting seriously injured and killed. This is why the Army depends on high standards, and why it has a more demanding approach towards certain types of behaviour and relationships than the rest of society.
Unfortunately the crop we have in the army now are just employment seekers. They did not respond to a call but they joined the army just to get a job. They were motivated by money.
Normally one answers to a call to join the army. It is a calling not an employment.
These days we have civilians in uniform.
Soon after the new dispensation then soldiers were thrust into the roadblocks to mingle with the public. They were not prepared for such a public mingling.
They were corrupted by combie drivers and some corrupt people. The soldiers tested bribe money and they now have to look for the money at gun point.
This now gave way to the robbers in uniform.
The other problem is that the recruitment procedure of the army has been abused. Prospective soldiers had to bribe recruiting officers for them to be considered and enlisted.
These then ho out of their way and commit several crimes.
We have some bullies in uniform. If they have an altercation with a civilian at a bottle store and maybe get defeated in a fist fight, the soldier hoes back yo the camp and come back to the bar or pub with a heavily armed unit to revenge. This is a total abuse of the army. There is no reason whatsoever these soldiers could be robbers.
Our soldiers need retraining and those committing robberies must be heavily punished.
We yearn for a day our soldiers will reclaim the glory of the yesteryears.
Our police officers have to increase their presence on the ground and stop and searches must be introduced.
There must be an increase in the road blocks and search for arms.
We must never be allowed to degenerate into South Africa. Zimbabwe is peaceful and we must all work towards maintaining and keeping the peace.