The government of Zimbabwe says it finds it most regrettable and unfortunate that South Africa’s Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, issued an inflammatory and accusatory statement alleging that military deserters from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), are responsible for increased crime in that country targeting banks.

In a statement to the ZBC News today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government of Zimbabwe wishes to state and put it on record that the Zimbabwean military has always discharged its duties with valour, distinction and honour in accordance with the country’s constitution and defence act.

“We also wish to clarify that the Defence Act and the Constitution provides for the voluntary enlistment into the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and also sets out clear conditions of service and honourable termination including retirement. The Honourable Minister’s allegation that when one has joined the ZDF, it is impossible to orderly terminate such engagement is not borne by facts and in this regard, such allegations are malicious and mischievous to say the least,” read the statement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that while there are Zimbabweans incarcerated in South African prisons, it is a gross exaggeration of fact to allege that armed criminals in south africa hail from Zimbabwe.

“The government of Zimbabwe is therefore deeply concerned that such highly incendiary and careless outbursts come from a Minister who superintends law enforcement. We are concerned that the statement could easily be misinterpreted and trigger xenophobic sentiments,” reads the statement.

The ministry also said it is disturbing that the Minister chose to ignore established protocol and diplomatic etiquette in communicating with the government of Zimbabwe before making such unsubstantiated allegations.