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By Staff Reporter

TWENTY-THREE soldiers attached to the Presidential Guard Unit have
been arrested and detained after they sprayed President Robert Mugabe's State House official residency with bullets on Monday night ahead of his arrival from Ethiopia where he had gone to attend an African Union meeting.

The soldiers, all of them graduates from the Border Gezi National Youth Service, were disarmed and arrested swiftly by commandos from One Commando Barracks without putting a fight.

The Presidential Guard is a unit responsible for guarding the President.

Disgruntlement in the army ranks has been increasing since last year when they were forced to exist on a diet of beans only.

The have been calling for salaries equivalent to those of Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives, arguing that their job is more important as they have to protect the Head of State.

Last year, some soldiers were resorting to armed robberies to raise money to sustain their families due to poor pay.

As unrest and discontent continues to mount in the Zimbabwean military, 50 soldiers from Inkomo Barracks, another Presidential Guard Unit, shot dead 30 horses before fleeing with their guns on Monday.

New's sources said the arrested soldiers could be court marshaled this week as the Mugabe regime moves to instill fear in the military.

A New source who works at State House said: “The soldiers had been discussing about their poor salaries and working conditions when one of them started peppering Zimbabwe House with bullets before being joined by his fellow soldiers.”

They are being kept at one of the military barracks in Harare under very tight security.

At Inkomo Barracks, the soldiers shot dead the horses which were in the stables and disappeared with an assortment of AK 47 assault and FN rifles.

President Mugabe delayed his departure from Ethiopia after his aides informed him about disturbances at State House, sources said.

A government minister said officials arrived at the airport at 6 PM to meet Mugabe, whose arrival was scheduled for 7 PM, but were shocked to see him arriving well after midnight.

The minister said: “A delegation of Cabinet ministers and senior Zanu PF officials was at the Harare International Airport to meet the President but he arrived after midnight.”

One of the President's aides told New that Mugabe did not go to State House but proceeded to his new Chinese-built £5 million palatial home in Borrowdale where he has been holed up.

All soldiers at the Presidential Guard Unit have been disarmed and their duties frozen while the riot police has taken over guard duties at State House to stop any further uprising, military sources said.

Discontent in the military appears to have been fueled by a Zimbabwe Defence Forces notice circulated to all military commanders that only soldiers above 35 years of age would be eligible for promotion, triggering mass desertions from the army.

We asked Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi to comment. "It is my policy not to talk to the media," he said by telephone from his home.

Mugabe, 83 this month, has been in power for 27 years. A combination of an unprecedented economic collapse and growing opposition within his ruling Zanu PF party presents the clearest threat to his rule.


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