Lt. Gen. Peter Walls denied today that his departure as Zimbabwe's military commander was because of problems in merging the three armies that fought in the preindependence war and said that the merger was going on in a speedy, encouraging manner.
Walls announced yesterday that he will relinquish his post at the end of this month and retire at the end of the year. He conceded that the merger has faced many problems, "but in fact, it's the overcoming of the problems which has made me feel that it is okay for me to retire now and the prime minister agrees that is so."
At a press conference, Walls also denied that his departure had anything to do with personality clashes with leaders of the former guerrilla forces who now serve on the high command.
"We have a good, strong, broadly based team in the joint high command, a team that gets along pretty well when you bear in mind that we came from pretty different backgrounds and we've been fighting and trying to kill each other not very long ago," the military leader said.
Walls, 54, said that although he had the flu and a case of pleurisy recently, he is feeling fit, and health was not a factor in his decision. His long-held desire to retire had now come to a head and he wants "to simmer down and get life in perspective again," he said.
He denied rumors that he owns property outside Zimbabwe and said, "I have made no decision to leave the country."
His comments appeared to be aimed at strifling anxieties about what his departure could mean to a jittery white population getting used to black-majority rule.