“Once a Soldier, a Soldier Forever”: Exiled Zimbabwean Soldiers in South Africa


This article explores the ways in which former Zimbabwean soldiers, exiled in South Africa, maintain and reuse their military-trained bodies and skills for survival, through practices of ‘soldiering’.


Through military training, soldiers’ bodies are shaped and prepared for war and military-related duties. In the context these former Zimbabwean soldiers find themselves—that of desertion and ‘underground life’ in exile in South Africa—their military-trained bodies and military skills are their only resource. In this article, we explore the ways in which former soldiers maintain and ‘reuse’ their military-trained bodies in South Africa for survival, in a context of high unemployment and a violent, inner-city environment.We look at their social world and practices of soldiering—a term that refers to the specific forms of their social interaction in exile, through which they keep their memories of their military past alive. By attending to their subjectivities and the endurance of their masculine military identities and bodies, we aim to contribute to the discussion on demilitarization, which has largely focused on the failure of models of intervention to assist ex-combatants in post conflict contexts.

Full Reference

Maringira, G. and Carrasco, L. N., 2015. “Once a Soldier, a Soldier Forever”: Exiled Zimbabwean Soldiers in South Africa. Medical Anthropology, 34(4), pp. 319-335. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2015.1038344