SOLDIERS defied a directive by their Commander-in-Chief, President Robert Mugabe, to withdraw from the census programme as they continued to invade centres where enumerators were being trained, it has emerged.
Cabinet on Tuesday barred soldiers and intelligence operatives from taking over the population enumeration and Mugabe reportedly send a circular to confirm the decision, but soldiers continued to swarm the training centres up to Friday.
The security ministers on Friday held marathon meetings with acting finance minister, Gorden Moyo and deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara where they eventually agreed to enforce Mugabe’s directive.
Sources said sanity prevailed only after Moyo had threatened that the census programme would not go ahead as long as soldiers and other security forces were demanding to lead the process.
“Moyo would not budge from his position and the security ministers were forced to act, because they faced the possibility of the census programme being disbanded altogether at a time when Sadc is about to meet to discuss the country’s political problems and other issues,” said a source at Munhumutapa building.
Another source said the defiance by soldiers and failure by security ministers to enforce Mugabe and Cabinet’s decision showed a high level of disrespect for the President.
Moyo on Thursday confirmed that the Office of the President and Cabinet had directed the soldiers to leave training centres.
Government last week suspended the training of enumerators after soldiers and police besieged training centres demanding that out of the 30 000 enumerator positions available, they be given a quota of 10 000.
But Cabinet ruled that only 1 500 officers from the army, Zimbabwe Prison Services and the police would take part in the exercise.
Army spokesperson Alphios Makotore demanded questions through an e-mail but refused to provide his address.
MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora fingered Zanu PF as the source of the chaos, accusing the party of trying to politicise and militarise the exercise.
Moyo yesterday confirmed that training had resumed without incident after the military had withdrawn from centres.
“There is total withdrawal of the elements that were causing problems,” he said, adding that he would get a fuller picture of what transpired later in the day.