Army policy may purge already scarce women from Army ranks 

 

By Lungile Moyo

The move by the Zimbabwe Defence forces (ZDF) to enforce a policy forbidding ZDF officers from espousing non -commissioned members may disadvantage a number of female officers says women’s rights groups. 

The policy which has always been there but overlooked states that officers of senior rank cannot marry their juniors. If officers are already married by the time the circular was put into effect, it called on one partner to resign from the force within six months counting from the first of February 2019 or be discharged. 

The Fraternisation Policy reads in part;

“Those who were already married to each other prior to the promulgation of this Policy are given six months from 01 February 2019 to comply with the requirement, failure of which action will be taken in terms of the Policy. Thus, they should decide on who should leave the organisation between each pair and names of those leaving the organisation as decided by each pair should be submitted to this HQ by 31 March 2019. Failure to advise this HQ will assume that both partners have decided to leave and will proceed likewise to discharge both”

Responding to the circular women rights defenders from various sectors concurred that this move was most likely to negatively impact women as they are often the junior officers married to more senior army personnel. They said women officers may be coerced to resign if the reasoning is that their post may be of lesser financial gain compared to that of the male partner.

“It means women will be sacrificed out of jobs,” said Mrs Hildgard Mafukare, Director of Lupane Women’s Development Trust, “ and will result in gross violation of women’s opportunities in the army” she added.

Director of Emthonjeni Women’s Trust, Sikhathele Mathambo agreed stating “ In most cases the commissioned officer is male and the junior is female”. Meaning it is the junior officer, the woman, who will most likely lose her source of livelihood. 

Some however said it was a long existing policy which was long ignored and this had caused problems in the army services. 

“If a junior officer is married to a senior army officer do you think she can be deployed to posts further from her husband” asked one Bulawayo citizen. “No, she will be benefitting favours ngokuba ngumfazi kaShef (she’ll be benefiting from being the bosses wife). Other women in the army suffer at her expense” he said. 

Another activist who refused to be quoted said while the policy seemed harsh it did have some aspects of note to consider. 

“ Some jobs are high risk and on the day you fight with your spouse all the information goes out,” she said. “The spouse can share top level information with friends because they won’t be bound by the oath of secrecy that senior officers sign” 

Kudzai Mutodi a Bulawayo  resident said many families will suffer poverty because of this policy

“It was going to be better if they had said from now onwards people from the army will not marry each other”, said Mutodi

Lihle Msipa also from Bulawayo said that this policy is going to work against women as they would be forced to leave their jobs while the  men stayed on as the main bread winners. 

“Into ekhona yikuthi ubaba nguye ozasala, or if they agree that women stay it means that the men will stay at home and do nothing while the wife works double”, said Msipa (the issue is that men will not leave their jobs). 

It is yet to be seen what choices the army personnel married to fellow officers will choose and how these choices will impact their financial standings as it will render at least one partner effectively unemployed as of April 2019.