The Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Mnangagwa will today lead the country in commemorating the 39th anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) day.
This is a huge moment that celebrates the role that the security sector has played in maintaining peace and tranquility, protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity for national development.
The ZDF has its roots in the nationalist forces — the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) who were the military wings of Zapu and Zanu respectively.
These two armies fought the liberation war against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Army in the 1960s until the colonial forces, sensing certain defeat, agreed to the Lancaster House Talks of 1979. After Independence, the new democratic government merged the two military wings as well as the defeated Rhodesian forces into one unit, the ZDF.
The ZDF has, over the past 39 years, distinguished itself in various engagements. They include leading the national response to national emergencies such as droughts. In addition, the forces have assisted many governments in fighting off rebels and foreign invasions in many countries while taking part in peace keeping operations in the Sadc region and beyond.
They helped Mozambique’s Frelimo government to ward off Renamo, a rebel movement from the early years of our Independence to 1992. The ZDF was involved in helping Angola’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government in fighting off Jonas Savimbi and his National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) rebel movement in the 1990s. Furthermore, the ZDF assisted the Democratic Republic of Congo government of Laurent Kabila in fighting off rebels who were supported by that country’s eastern neighbours — Rwanda and Uganda.
It is arguable that were it not for the military capability of the ZDF, the Frelimo, MPLA and Congolese government would have been defeated, altering the course of history in the region.
With such a capable force Zimbabweans can sleep soundly, engage in their day to day activities without fearing for their security and that of their country and its vital interests.
But history has shown that our defence forces are not just about steel but are men and women who are also blessed with supreme intelligence. Indeed we have a very professional and skilled force that is very competent, committed to its work. They have shown this in the way they operate and the way some of their members have performed while deployed outside the barracks.
Speaking on Friday, the Minister of Defence and War Veterans’ Affairs Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri hailed the ZDF
“The ZDF has since its formation prioritised the need to build strong civil-military relations with the people because the Constitution of Zimbabwe mandates the ZDF to protect people,” she said.
“The first level of protecting people is to build harmonious relations. The ZDF has been able to do this by ensuring that they are present when their assistance is required. The ZDF has played a major role in disaster management programmes such as transportation of drought relief food to need people. Search and rescue operations during floods in places such as Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central and some parts of Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North where the ZDF played a significant role in rescuing marooned people and livestock. Recently the ZDF personnel were among the first to arrive in Chimanimani to conduct search and rescue of the victims of Tropical Cyclone Idai.”
The ZDF has contributed in many national programmes and, as alluded to earlier, in national emergencies. Among the emergencies and national programmes are Operation Maguta/Inala, Command Agriculture and more recently, as Minister Muchinguri said, the national response to Tropical Cyclone Idai. The people of Zimbabwe can count on the support of their security sector. They will continue to assist in more future programmes and activities that alleviate suffering, promote national unity, peace and development.
We too are proud of the foremost defenders of our national flag, our national borders, our inalienable national interests, our national Constitution, our individual and national identity, our humanity and our very lives.
We look forward to a happy day today as thousands of Zimbabweans converge at various centres to recognise the role that the ZDF plays in national socio-economic development.
We look back with much pride and look ahead with hope for the ZDF and the country.