Photo: The Herald, (File photo).
President Robert Mugabe Tuesday tried to put behind family crisis as he led celebrations to this year’s National Defence Forces Day where urged the country’s military rank and file not to abandon national duty over poor wages.
Mugabe went on to thank the military for Operation Hakudzokwi, a violent 2008 army onslaught which reportedly saw the killing of dozens of fortune seeking locals who had invaded diamond rich Chiadzwa area in Manicaland in search for the gem.
Mugabe, who is also Defence Forces Commander-in-Chief, presided over the event at the National Sports Stadium Tuesday afternoon.
But conspicuous by her absence was his wife, Grace who has been the subject of intense media coverage over violence claims in South Africa on Sunday.
Grace has been the most trending Zimbabwean since her alleged attack on a 20 year-old South African lover to the first couple’s youngest son at a hotel in Johannesburg.
But with a palpable air of anxiety around her fate, the Zimbabwean leader Tuesday tried to soften the mood by showing a jovial throughout his speech.
In his address, President Mugabe acknowledged the country’s military rank and file was hard-pressed for resources as he went on to urge them to remain focussed on their duties.
“Salaries remain low but I am sure that as country progress people will begin getting remunerated better but we cannot use low salaries as an excuse to abandon national duty,” President Mugabe said in Shona as he broke from his prepared English speech.
“National duty should continue in the full knowledge that if the country maintains peace, it will get to a stage in which the government shall be able to pay better salaries.”
Zimbabwe’s junior soldiers have in the recent past, run amok, attacking civilians and looting shops as economic hardship permeated through military barracks.
Lately, a group of uniformed soldiers was caught in violent clashes with police officers in Harare’s CBD.
The veteran leader Tuesday avoided direct mention of the skirmishes but chose to see the silver lining out of the crisis.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces have gone beyond just fulfilling their constitutional obligation of defending Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“Together with other arms of security, they have ensured that all at times peace prevails. Our sense of security derives from their unity with the police,” said the President.