The violent demonstrations that occurred in January were sponsored by a third hand, a situation that prompted military personnel to intervene in order to bring sanity, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda has said.
He said there was no way ZDF could fold its arms when some elements were fuelling violence and interfering with other people’s constitutional right to freedom of assembly and association.
Gen Sibanda said this last Friday in an interview with The Herald and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s Current Affairs ahead of the Heroes and Defence Forces Day celebrations today and tomorrow.
“What happened in January was very unfortunate because we had come out of the election period, things were beginning to work out and we were surprised that some of our people decided to go on a violent demonstration, not only destroying property, but also preventing other Zimbabweans from going about their business as they should,” he said.
“That situation could not be allowed to go on. The Constitution says individuals are allowed to demonstrate, they are allowed to show their displeasure, but in a peaceful manner and without interfering with other people’s freedom.
“When you start destroying other people’s properties and interfering with their freedoms, you are already in violation of the Constitution.
“They were organised, the manner in which they acted showed that there was someone who was controlling them. I do not see any other way that violence could have been stopped. It had to be stopped so that people could go about their lives in a normal way. It is unfortunate that it ended up with some lives being lost, but it had to be stopped.”
Gen Sibanda said while ZDF intervened to save lives during the Cyclone Idai disaster that saw several lives being lost and left a trail of destruction, they were found wanting in terms of preparedness.
He said while they could have done better with Cyclone Idai, ZDF had acquitted itself well with respect to other natural disasters.
“Yes, we are prepared to a certain level, that is why we were able to deal with Cyclone Idai,” said Gen Sibanda.
“We were not as prepared as we would have wanted to be for Cyclone Idai and the magnitude of the cyclone.
“We were, however, prepared for disasters that we dealt with in the past, but we were found wanting on Cyclone Idai, but we are working to address these areas.”
Some of the areas that needed improvement had to do with resources.
“There is training, resources management of disasters that need to be addressed,” said Gen Sibanda.
“From the lessons we learnt from Cyclone Idai, we think we could do better in terms of organisation and responses to calamities like Idai.”
Gen Sibanda said he was set to assume chairmanship of Sadc Troika Defence sub-committee in August when President Mnangagwa takes over as chair of the regional bloc’s Defence, Politics and Security.
“In this particular case, when the President takes over as Troika chairman, the various sub-committee chairmanship also passes on to Zimbabwe, so I will be chairing the defence sub-committee which brings together all the Sadc defence chiefs and we discuss issues from training, terrorism, climate change and so on,” he said.