As thousands of people flocked to various venues throughout the country yesterday to mark the 37th Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, it was clear that our uniformed forces occupy an important space in the hearts of many citizens.
Despite efforts by the country’s enemies who try to discredit the forces at any given opportunity, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) have remained resolute and professional in its conduct.
ZDF was built from the integration of Zanla, Zipra and Rhodesian forces at independence in 1980. Many Zimbabweans are proud of the forces mainly because they have managed to safeguard, not only our independence and territorial integrity, but also the sovereignty of many other African countries.
Who can forget the adventures in Mozambique in the 1980s when the country’s economic lifeline – the fuel pipeline that runs from Msasa in Harare to Beira in Mozambique – was vulnerable to attack by Renamo rebels? ZDF managed to protect the pipeline and contributed immensely to the end of the civil war in Mozambique.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Operation Sovereign Legitimacy was perfectly executed by the ZDF and the peace that prevails in that country is a product of our armed forces.
The ZDF has over the years carried many operations in other countries, especially under the auspices of the United Nations. This explains why UN representative in Zimbabwe Mr Bishow Parajuli yesterday showered the ZDF with so much praise because of its contribution to international peace. At home, the ZDF have proved to be a true people’s force through community assistance programmes.
The ZDF have built schools, constructed bridges and carried out rescue operations in times of natural disasters, especially floods. This is why we were not surprised to see so many people coming out yesterday to commemorate the Defence Forces Day.
There is a umbilical cord that binds the forces with the people. We feel proud as nation to be associated with such effective defence forces that have demonstrated lessons to the world on how to maintain peace.
Speaking at the commemorations in Harare yesterday, President Mugabe chronicled some of the successes in the ZDF’s 37-year history, highlighting that the forces are an integral part of the country’s peaceful environment and economic development.
In fact, the ZDF have remained strong despite illegal economic sanctions imposed by Western countries that threatened to ground their operations. We note the innovativeness of the defence forces in light of the sanctions.
Effective armed forces learn coping mechanisms when faced with difficulties and obstacles. It is most welcome that the ZDF continues to carry out research and training to upgrade their forces so that they are in touch with modern military techniques.
This is why the forces are able to manufacture their own spares and other requirements, especially after the country was hit by illegal economic sanctions.
It is also a mark of achievement that the National Defence College has been transformed into a fully-fledged National Defence University. The university is helping to sharpen skills of the members of the ZDF to bring them to par with fellow armed forces from all over the world.
The huge turnout yesterday at various venues for the Defence Forces Day reaffirmed the nation’s faith in the ZDF. As Zimbabweans, we have clearly expressed our wish for total independence and the ZDF continues to make great sacrifices to safeguard our hard-won sovereignty. Without peace, it will be difficult for Zimbabweans to fulfil their aspirations.
We thank our defence forces for their continued vigilant and relentless efforts to ensure that we live in harmony.