Walter Nyamukondiwa Mash West Bureau
The Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) is set to be resuscitated through strategic partnerships with universities and colleges to provide cutting edge military solutions, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda has said.
Once a military solutions hub for the region and beyond, ZDI ran into challenges, including sanctions imposed by the West, which threatened its closure, but efforts are under way to bring it back to life.
Speaking to a gathering of officials from Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Staff College at CUT recently, Gen Sibanda said they were working to put ZDI out of the “intensive care unit”.
“There was a time when there was a lot of hype about our defence industries, the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, but I believe that maybe we made some mistakes along the way,” he said. “We could have done better.
“ZDI was also using very old equipment and that contributed towards this sort of demise that it is in now. It is like in intensive care, but we are working to bring it out of the intensive care unit.”
For the past two years, Gen Sibanda said, interactions were being made with various universities and colleges, including the University of Zimbabwe and Harare Institute of Technology, to collaborate on various prototypes.
He said ZDI challenges had presented South Africa with the initiative to penetrate the region and beyond owing to advanced technology, but efforts were now being made to reclaim the market.
“There is no reason why we should reinvent the wheel,” said Gen Sibanda. “The technology is there, the drones are there. We should buy what is there, use them, do reverse engineering and we are on our way.” Gen Sibanda said there were some capabilities, which were inherent in some universities and among the students, which could be adopted and perfected.
With potential to breath life into down stream industries such as steel from Ziscosteel and the textile industry, among others, ZDI resuscitation will result in positive spin-offs, including employment creation. Turning to discipline, Gen Sibanda said it was the hallmark of a successful army and country.
“Discipline is in my view the pivot around which everything rotates,” he said. “You can have the materials and personnel, but if they are not disciplined to bring the two together and become one thing, which will be effective, then they are not worth being called a military organisation.
“As a country, we need discipline and it should not be viewed or confined to the military. It is something that we need in our homes, communities and everywhere.”
While the army may not be perfect, said Gen Sibanda, the nation could take a leaf from it for success. He said the successful execution of the war of liberation and operations in Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and last year’s Operation Restore Legacy were underpinned by discipline.
Said Gen Sibanda: “We have seen it work very well in the war, in Mozambique, Congo (DRC), United Nations operations in Angola and you saw it work recently in Operation Restore Legacy.
“Had it been in some countries, there would have been mayhem big time. So, we believe discipline helps.” CUT vice chancellor Professor David Simbi said universities provided solutions to identified problems and the initiative by the ZDF would yield positive results for the country.
“Most gadgets which have gone to be in commercial use by civilians started with the military. The cellphone, for instance, was a military gadget, which has gone on to do well commercially after being adopted by civilians. Universities have a role to play in that regard,” he said.