Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter
THOUSANDS of people yesterday teemed to various centres countrywide to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).
The main event was held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare where multitudes packed the giant sports arena where President Mnangagwa delivered the main address.
This was the first physical commemorations since 2019 due to restrictive measures imposed by the Government to protect citizens from the Covid-19 pandemic.
As early as 7am people from all walks of life including children were already trickling into the venue, dressed in various attires including the national dress.
At 10am hordes of people were still thronging the venue, with men and women joining separate orderly queues to gain entrance into the National Sports Stadium that is only a few kilometres from the National Heroes Acre.
Songstress Sandra Ndebele wooed the crowds with the sing-along song “Guva Rangu Kana Ndazofa”.
At 10:20am the service chiefs led by the Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Phillip Valerio Sibanda arrived.
A Botswana dance troupe clad in animal skin aprons, nhembe or ibhetshu in vernacular languages also took the stage much to the applause of the crowd who were seemingly mesmerised by their dancing antics.
At 10:37am Tendai Dembo, son of the late legendary musician Leonard Dembo, did a rendition of his father’s “Madhiri” track, a timeless tune that left the crowd cheering.
Between 10:45am and 10:50am Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume, Zanu PF Vice President and Second Secretary Kembo Mohadi and Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga and his spouse arrived.
At 10:54am President Mnangagwa, clad in a black suit, and the First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in a national dress arrived in the giant stadium to the applause of the crowd.
The arrival of the Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces President Mnangagwa then marked the commencement of the main celebrations with a fly-past by Air Force of Zimbabwe jets while the national anthem was being sung.
President Mnangagwa then inspected the military parade.
At 11:50am the Senior Chaplain General gave a short sermon.
Around noon, Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister, also Zanu PF Chairman Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri then took to the stage to welcome delegates including special ones from the Botswana Defence Forces, comprising members of their Select soccer team and traditional dance troupe.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri then invited President Mnangagwa to confer the Commendation Medal on Major Winnet Zharare.
She then once again invited the President to the podium to give his address in which he saluted Major Zharare saying as a nation, Zimbabwe is doing well with regards to mainstreaming pro-gender policies.
“It is heartening to note that 55 percent of the total ZDF contingent deployed on United Nations missions are women, which far surpasses the 18 percent requirement set by the United Nations. The deployed officers are doing the nation proud due to their exceptional performance during these missions.
“It was only recently that Major Winnet Zharare was conferred with a commendation medal and the 2021 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. This was in recognition for her exemplary performance during her deployment as a military observer in South Sudan,” he said.
Major Zharare was honoured by the United Nations after winning the prestigious 2021 Military Gender Advocate of the Year award for advocating gender parity and women’s participation during her 17-month long service with the UN Mission in South Sudan.
After the address there were eye-catching military parade marches which were followed by the ZDF displays.
One of the major attractions from the ZDF was parachute displays with the first parachute to land adorned beautifully with the Zimbabwean flag.
AT 13:38am Sandra Ndebele was back on stage again and left delegates in awe with her energetic dance moves.
Soon after, the President and the First lady left the venue as other dignitaries also left, but people remained in the venue to witness other displays that were being showcased by the military personnel.
A Warren Park 1 resident, Mrs Alandra Mawonde who was with her four kids said Covid-19 had disrupted the annual event.
“I come here every year with my family and I am glad this year the celebrations were held physically. Over the past two years we had missed the opportunity to come and witness the military displays by the ZDF. The kids were enthralled by the paratroopers,” she said.
A local company, Ojayz Signs also put stickers with images of heroes and heroines, on at least 160 Zupco buses free.
The director of Ojayz signs, Mr Posan Chitendere said the holiday celebrations were open for every citizen to participate towards those who sacrificed their lives for liberation of this country.
Some of the stickers were inscribed, “The heroes are charming gardeners who make our souls blossom, Heroes take journeys, confront Dragons, and Discover The Treasure Of Their True Self”, among others.
“As youths we will continue participating in these important national events and we would like to urge other youths to also make sure that they join others in celebrating these national events.”
Mrs Angela Mutinhiri thanked the Government for hosting such a colourful event.
“It feels good on a holiday to come and participate in the Defence Forces Day. I enjoyed the dances by Sandra Ndebele. Thanks to the organisers who afforded us a chance to watch the artistes performing for free.
“The invitation of the Botswana dance group is something I highly appreciate. The traditional fusion from the dressing, dances was just good,” she said.
Mr Tinoda Hwenda hailed the ZDF for the continued dedication in maintaining peace in the country.
“I am glad that Zimbabwe is one of the most peaceful countries. We thank the ZDF for guaranteeing our peace.
“The ZDF also plays a key role each year through their participation in community assistance programmes,” he said.