Today, we celebrate Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Day. Since formation at independence in 1980, the ZDF have distinguished themselves as the vanguard of the nation, the harbinger of security, dignity, peace and stability.
In the past 39 years, ZDF have registered major successes, giving the nation every reason to celebrate its achievements and to walk with heads high on the international fora.
The peaceful environment prevailing in the country is arguably the most expensive public good the ZDF has managed to jealously maintain, that is worth celebrating. This has enabled all Zimbabweans and the business community to engage in economic development initiatives without any disturbance unlike in most countries in Africa.
Today, we should take time to appreciate the role of the defence forces as enshrined in the supreme law of the country.
The inaugural celebrations were held in 1980 when the three previously warring parties namely, Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) and the Rhodesian Army, united into a single force.
ZDF has become a force to reckon with after successfully carrying out its peacekeeping duties during the times of the insurgencies in South Africa during Apartheid. ZDF also played an integral defence role against the Mozambican National Resistance Army (Renamo).
ZDF has also distinguished itself in many other regional and international peace keeping initiatives, such as the United Nations (UN) peace keeping missions in many countries.
Recently, Zimbabwe has been rated number 14 among the most favourable destinations to visit in the world due to the peaceful environment prevailing in the country.
A look into some of the ZDF’s achievements reflect that the force has managed to execute its constitutional mandate with boldness, which in itself, is a cause for celebration. In providing military aid to civil power, ZDF has dutifully done well.
For instance, the force managed to provide support to the Zimbabwe Republic Police at the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields that were once a hive of chaotic panning and illegal trading activities by restoring order paving way for organised mining for the benefit of the all Zimbabweans.
ZDF has also continued to collaborate with the police in patrolling the country’s borders with a view to curb illegal border crossing and smuggling among other criminal activities. ZDF has since 1982 cleared and destroyed 209 430 landmines which were planted by Rhodesian forces at the peak of the liberation struggle between 1976 and 1979.
However, years after the hostilities, the dangerous weapons were still wreaking havoc on civilian populations, their livestock as well as wildlife in the vicinity of the mine fields. ZDF has managed to hand over more than 400sq km of cleared land for development to various local authorities, a gesture worth celebrating as it shows the defence forces’ commitment and dedication.
Military assistance to civil communities has continued to be one of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ peacetime responsibilities worth celebrating. The force has been involved in search and rescue operations where helicopters and personnel were deployed to flood-hit areas such as Muzarabani and the Tokwe Mukosi basin.
ZDF has done a great deal of community service including building of schools, bridges, clinics and other forms of infrastructure.
Its colourful performance in providing VVIP protection at the 2014 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Equatorial Guinea bears testimony to the defence forces’ pedigree. The other reason for ZDF Day celebrations is to expand public understanding of the role of the military in civilian life through military parades, receptions and air shows. These are carried out during the ZDF Day across the country where the military mount various parades in all provinces to showcase the state of defence forces across the country.
This is done to impart a sense of purpose to the young generations of Zimbabwe, so much that they will have a bond with their true selves, their nationhood and their national destiny. The initiative makes both the young and the old feel deeply Zimbabwean and yearn to honour and protect Zimbabwe’s dignity and its precious resources.