Judge Jarachara and Melody Dube, Features Reporters
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will again deprive the country of any form of celebratory activities on Independence Day as efforts to slow the spread of the disease continue.
The well-known entertaining and magnificent military parades, which over the years have always preceded a match between Zimbabwe’s two popular teams; Dynamos FC and Highlanders FC remain a memory.
However, despite restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) will still honour this day with all citizens as there is much to celebrate concerning their services to the public. Their success in safeguarding territorial integrity and implementing Government policies in line with Vision 2023 is also worth celebrating.
The ZDF consists of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ). It was established in 1980, soon after Zimbabwe gained her independence.
The late former President Robert Mugabe came up with the idea of integrating Zimbabwe’s existing forces at the time to form the ZDF. He combined the then existing Rhodesian Army with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) forces and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) forces.
The three forces fought separately during the liberation struggle. The tactics and ideas were different but for Zanla and Zipra, the vision was the same, which was to fight for national independence. Thus after independence, the three were brought together as Zimbabwe had gained unity for all people to work together. The unity of these three forces matured into today’s existing forces, the ZDF.
The work of the ZDF over the years has not been limited to protecting Zimbabwe’s interests but it has also been to safeguard and provide appropriate livelihoods for all citizens.
ZDF public relations director Colonel Teddy Ndlovu said the function of the ZDF is derived from Section 212 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which states that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces shall protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity.
“The essential element of the Constitutional provision is that the ZDF must ensure that peace and tranquility prevail at all times. To satisfy this requirement, the ZDF must in peace time focus on developing a defence capability that can effectively deal with threats to human and national security. In peacetime the major preoccupation of the ZDF is the designing and implementation of training and education programmes that enhance the knowledge and skills of all ZDF members so that they can effectively and proficiently within the framework of the Constitutional mandate, carry out assigned tasks,” said Col Ndlovu.
He said while political science scholars usually present political dynamics as any interplay between peace and war, the use of peaceful resolution of conflicts has always been the most preferred approach. “Since war is a destructive enterprise, the ZDF will at all times endeavor to pursue the prevention of war through application of effective deterrence,” said Col Ndlovu.
Turning to the decentralisation of recruitment both by the ZNA and the AFZ, Col Ndlovu said the ZDF’s deliberate recruitment policy is designed to give every able bodied citizen of this country a chance to serve in the military.
“Under this recruitment policy, the organisation has decentralised its recruitment process to all the provinces of this country to allow those interested to have easy access to the nearby centres and reduce costs of travel. Every Zimbabwean citizen with requisite qualifications commensurate with the posts being advertised is eligible for recruitment. Each profession has its unique requirements and we adhere as appropriate. Both males and females are eligible as reflected and all areas of the country are covered to achieve equal representation,” he said.
The ZDF has often ventured into several rescue missions in times of disaster as was the case in the Manicaland province when Cyclone Idai hit in early 2019.
Col Ndlovu said as mandated; one of the secondary roles for both the ZNA and AFZ is to provide Military Assistance to Civil Ministries hence the need for the force to have the capacity to deal with natural disasters such as floods, droughts and pandemics.
“The rescue operations are conducted by military personnel and equipment provisioned for that purpose. However, in certain circumstances as was the case during Cyclone Idai, the magnitude of the task and the speed with which it was to be conducted led to other players joining hands with the ZDF to expedite search and rescue operations and humanitarian relief efforts,” he said.
The ZDF have undertaken a lot of projects throughout the country including the construction of schools and clinics in some areas. In order for the ZDF to effectively and proficiently perform its roles as required by the Constitution, Col Ndlovu said, the structure of the organisation encompasses various specialist trades such as bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians just to mention a few. “These specialists cater for the maintenance of existing structures and the construction of new offices and accommodation for the ZDF. These specialist trades are found in Army and Air Force bases in all provinces. As part of its corporate social responsibility, the ZDF introduced community assistance programmes that encompass the construction of schools, clinics and bridges that are meant to serve the community.
While the community and their partners source for the construction materials for selected projects, the ZDF has always been willing to assist with the provision of construction artisans to assist in the building of schools such as the Mpopoma High School project,” said Col Ndlovu.
Given the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to this year’s Independence Day celebrations, the ZDF will join the rest of the country in marking the day virtually.
“The ZDF as part of the nation has been affected particularly in the manner that the organisation is going to celebrate Independence Day because of the Covid-19 induced restrictions. In previous years Independence Day celebrations, the organisation conducted the independence parade and drill displays. For 2020 and 2021 Independence Day celebrations, the country has been and is still observing the WHO protocols meant to contain the spread of the virus.
“In line with these measures, the Mass Parades of Uniformed troops and civilian displays have been suspended. Hence, the ZDF will join the rest of the nation in celebrating Independence Day virtually,” said Col Ndlovu.
Col Ndlovu said the ZDF officers, men and women would like to pay tribute to the courageous gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Zimbabwe our motherland.
“As ZDF joins the whole nation in celebrating the country’s 41 years of Independence, the organisation commits itself to remain resolute in discharging its mandate of defending the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in a manner that fulfils the dreams of all those who lost their lives in pursuit of the liberation of this country from colonial bondage. As the country celebrates 41 years of Independence, we urge the people of Zimbabwe that the threat of Covid-19 cannot be wished away hence the need to adhere to the health protocols and guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
“As the nation will be honouring Independence Day on Sunday, it is important to celebrate even those who made the day possible such as the ZDF who keep on ensuring that Zimbabwe’s independence stays forever,” said Col Ndlovu.