Speech by His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Dr E. D. Mnangagwa, at the 39th anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day celebrations, National Sports Stadium, 13th August, 2019
I am privileged and honoured to address you today as we gather to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. This occasion, once again, provides us with an opportunity, to honour and celebrate our armed forces for their illustrious and unparalleled achievements, in defence of our territorial integrity, independence and self-determination.
Since the attainment of independence, our country has enjoyed its constitutionally enshrined rights, peace and stability, as a result of the loyalty, selfless dedication and sacrifices of these fine men and women of our nation.
The role of our Defence Forces has never been an easy one, since the years prior to independence, when young, brave men and women, waged a relentless armed struggle against British settler colonial rule. Thousands of our gallant fighters and civilians perished in the quest for the freedoms we enjoy today. Our nation continues to take stock of the loss in life and limb, occasioned by the armed struggle.
We remember and draw inspiration from that solid foundation of gallantry, which delivered our beloved nation and independence. It is indeed that valour which gave birth to the solid, resolute, committed and acclaimed Zimbabwe Defence Forces, which we pay special tribute to, on this day.
After the attainment of independence, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) took upon themselves many roles within the country and the region in operations, such as securing Zimbabwe’s trade routes through Mozambique and restoring the sovereign legitimacy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We shall forever remember the many sons and daughters of our armed forces who lost their lives during those campaigns.
Furthermore, the ZDF continues to play a significant role in the maintenance of international peace and security in other parts of the world. Notable deployments in this regard include previous and current support to the United Nations’ efforts at securing peace in Angola, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic. Our men and women served, and continue to serve, in some of these campaigns, with diligence and professionalism that have earned them world acclaim.
Back home, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces play various roles as part of their constitutional peacetime mandate. They have, as and when requested, supported the maintenance of law and order, border control operations and guarding the country’s key infrastructure and institutions.
On occasions, the ZDF medical personnel have been asked to guarantee constant service delivery in our public health institutions, when called upon to do so. I also commend the men and women of the Defence Forces for their visible and significant assistance to the Civil Protection Unit in response to the devastating impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai.
We applauded their swift, brave and focused intervention in the quest to reach inaccessible communities in the cyclone-ravaged areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge districts. The ZDF units remain on-site to this day, rebuilding roads, bridges and other damaged infrastructure.
Let me once again take this opportunity to thank the people of Zimbabwe and international organisations, which came to our aid, during our time of need. Special mention goes to members of the South African Defence Forces currently building temporary Bailey bridges in the affected areas and other international organisations and local organisations that have remained on site.
Comrades and Friends;
In view of the ever changing, socio-economic and technological and security architecture, the modernisation and capacitation of our Defence Forces has become urgent and imperative. My Government is therefore prioritising the upgrading of equipment as well as facilitating focused training of specialised units in both the Army and Airforce. The provision of skills training and raising the Forces preparedness in general, will also receive my administration’s full support.
Meanwhile, during the period under review, several courses were held at various levels. Joint training and direct staff exchange programmes were conducted with regional and international friendly countries. These exchanges have significantly enriched the knowledge base of the ZDF. In the same vein, the ZDF is preparing to participate in the Special Forces Exercise, code-named CHOMELA, scheduled to take place in Botswana next year.
At the international level, my Government will ensure that the ZDF plays its part in the achievement of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the quest to silence guns on the continent. Initiatives aimed at finding African solutions to African problems will also be supported. Zimbabwe is indeed committed and ready to play its part in ensuring a more peaceful, empowered, modern, industrialised and integrated Africa.
The ZDF continues to roll out its Assistance to Civil Community Programmes, despite the constrained fiscal space and the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
Just a few days ago, the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs launched a week- long medical outreach programme at Katema Clinic in Gokwe, where hundreds of villagers received free medical attention from military doctors. Such efforts will go a long way towards complementing Government’s programmes which seek to ensure equality and affordable health delivery to all our people.
Other outreach projects commissioned or awaiting commissioning this year, include the double-storey classroom block at Mpopoma High School in Bulawayo; the 32-roomed boys’ hostel at Rusununguko High School in Goromonzi District; the 10-roomed girls’ dormitory at Nyatsanza Primary School at Hauna Village in Honde Valley and Nogowe Clinic in Mberengwa. There are several other projects at various stages of completion.
The ZDF remains seized with efforts at demining the large tracts of Zimbabwean land that became inaccessible after racist colonial regime planted anti-personnel mines in a bid to stall the execution of the liberation war, during the 19 70s. A cumulative area of over 900 000 square metres was cleared during the period August 2018 to June 2019, which saw anti-personnel mines being immobilised in the process.
This programme will be accelerated as resources become available. Meanwhile, we are grateful for the increased assistance from the international demining institutions, such as Hazardous Areas Life Support Organisation (HALO) Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Anti-Personnel Mine Detection Organisation (AMDO).
This is a programme which indeed deserves of assistance as its outcomes result in improved safety. In addition, more land will be made available for agriculture purposes.
I exhort all members of the Defence Forces to actively participate in the National Clean- up Campaign exercise, which has since gathered momentum. This is a national war to clean up our environment, a war which we must win.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
My administration remains committed to improving the conditions of service of our armed forces. My Government is aware that our Defence Force is equally affected by the economic difficulties faced by the general citizenry. Efforts are at an advanced stage to reintroduce the Military Salary Concept.
We shall equally expedite the construction of accommodation facilities for the armed forces. Notable housing projects under construction are the Dzivarasekwa and Mbizo schemes, which when complete, will provide accommodation for commissioned and non-commissioned officers.
The Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), which promotes production and restricts Government spending, is ongoing with its attendant reform measures. The medicine to cure our economic ailment will be bitter and often painful, whether within a household or at State level. But the darkest hour comes before dawn.
Indications are that our economic fundamentals are now in place to facilitate an upward development trajectory. This has also been confirmed by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other International Financial Institutions.
There are, however, some in our business community, who have taken this difficult transitional phase of our economy as an opportunity to unjustifiably enrich themselves. There is no justification, whatsoever, why our people should be subjected to some of the high prices of goods and services that we have witnessed in recent months.
Equally, no economy can flourish in a corrupt environment. We are fully committed to zero tolerance to corruption and the law will be applied without fear or favour.
I challenge the ZDF to always be mindful of the fact that building and developing a new Zimbabwe requires a force which is loyal, patriotic, reliable and committed. I, further, urge you on remain resourceful and vigilant towards enhancing and guarding against contemporary threats to our defence and security.
In this regard, economic instability, moral decadence and social instability are among the factors that can threaten our national security.
I exhort you, therefore, to appropriately meet the demands towards the attainment of Vision 2030, with zeal and dedication. The need to harness the vast potential presented by our country’s current development stage, cannot be overemphasised. As men and women of the ZDF, it is incumbent on you to, individually and collectively, play your part in the provision of home-grown solutions, to enhance our modernisation, industrialisation, self-reliance and independence.
In addition, we must endeavour to closely integrate and coordinate economic development with national defence and security. In this regard, I urge the Defence Forces to take an active part in the local socio-economic development of our grassroots communities.
Let us be ready to serve the people and take concrete action towards their development and improvement in their quality of life. The long-standing relations between the military and the people, which date back to the days of the liberation struggle, must be rekindled and nurtured.
Furthermore, I urge you to always be alive to the broader international relations sphere and equip yourselves to properly deal with the profound and complicated changes in the world around us.
In conclusion, let me appeal to all Zimbabweans to cherish the peace that our country enjoys today. We should be vigilant and reject those amongst us who wish to perpetuate the suffering of the masses through violence, disunity, divisions and unrest.
It is everyone’s duty to secure the unity, freedom and peace we continue to enjoy.
Long live our Defence Forces, Long Live our Independence and Sovereignty, Long Live Zimbabwe,
God bless you all!
God bless Zimbabwe!
I thank you!