Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday hailed the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) for showing patriotism by remaining calm and peaceful amid recent calls for violent protests by the opposition and their appendages who also sought to cause divisions within the forces.
In his Defence Forces Day address broadcast live from State House in Harare, President Mnangagwa said the commemorations were taking place under yet another wave of aggression manifesting through illegal sanctions, hostile anti-Zimbabwe propaganda, mounted on social media platforms, and other forms of asymmetrical warfare meant to break the unity within the country’s forces.
He said the Defence Forces have, however, managed to defend Zimbabwe from detractors, divisive elements and enemies.
This dovetails the theme for this year’s commemorations titled, “ZDF: Celebrating 40 Years of Excellent Service to the People”.
The President also commended the Defence Forces for embracing the Government’s Vision of attaining an Upper Middle-Income Economy by 2030.
In that regard, he said, the ZDF engineers and artisans are engaged in various construction projects to precipitate development of our communities throughout the country.
“Thank you, once again for remaining calm and peaceful in the wake of some misguided calls for violent protests and demonstrations by the opposition elements with support from foreign and civil society supporters and backers,” said President Mnangagwa.
“You have shown your patriotism and love for peace and tranquillity. To the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, as a nation we take pride in you and we thank you for continuously defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity from all contemporary threats.”
The President said the ZDF has since its formation acquitted itself with distinction and high professionalism in executing its constitutional mandate and for that deserve praise.
“Zimbabwe has continued to enjoy peace largely attributable to the ZDF’s vigilance, loyalty, commitment and dedication to their constitutional obligation of defending the country and its people. The resultant peace and tranquillity has provided a great stimulus for socio-economic development over the years,” he said.
President Mnangagwa through various initiatives, the Defence Forces have demonstrated commitment to serve the nation and the close relationship that exists between them and the Zimbabwean community.
“Memories of Cyclone Idai in 2019 bring to mind the Defence Forces’ significant role in search and rescue operations as well as provision of food and medical assistance to flood victims. They have also helped in restoring the damaged infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and clinics,” said President Mnangagwa.
“This rich history of assisting communities is commendable and must continue to be the hallmark of our Defence Forces.”
President Mnangagwa said the National Mine Clearance Unit of the Zimbabwe National Army Engineer Corps is also making significant progress in clearing anti-personnel landmines laid by the Rhodesian Regime during the liberation struggle.
These include areas along the Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner Minefield.
“Government is committed to clear all landmines across the country to give full meaning to independence, freedom and development for the affected communities,” he said.
The President said co-operating partners, Hazardous Life Support Organisation (Halo) Trust, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) are also progressing well in similar de-mining operations.
“Let me take this opportunity to express my Government’s sincere appreciation for the assistance we are getting from these organisations,” he said.
The President said while maintaining peace in the country, the Defence Forces continue to participate in regional and international peace keeping missions under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN).
“Our officers, men and women of the ZDF perform their duties with excellence and unparalleled dedication, as they contribute towards enhancing regional and continental integration,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said the involvement of the ZDF in international activities exposes them to the use of modern military equipment as well as strengthening ties between our forces and allies.
In September 2019, the ZDF participated in the Ligwalagwala Air Show in Eswatini while preparations for participation in the Russian International Military Games and Special Forces Exercise (Chomela) to be held in the Republic of Botswana are at an advanced stage.
President Mnangagwa said mindful of their sacrificial nature and service ethos, his administration remains determined to improve the salaries and conditions of service for the Defence Forces.
“Housing, transport and medical facilities among other requirements are being improved in recognition of the role and sacrifices made by our Defence Forces in the conduct of their duties,” he said.
“Mobility, requisite training equipment and Research and Development needs will be equally funded to ensure the modernisation and improvement of our national defence capabilities.”
With regard to the War Veterans Affairs, President Mnangagwa said, the Government has resuscitated the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill which has now gone past the Second Reading Stage in Parliament.
He said the passing of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill into Law will repeal the War Veterans Act and the Ex-Political Prisoners, Detainees and Restrictees Act and take on board the previously excluded categories of the veterans.
“I am confident that upon its enactment, most of the welfare issues of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle will be resolved,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Recognising the immense contribution made by veterans of our liberation struggle, I urge them to build on this rich legacy by taking full advantage of the empowerment opportunities availed in all sectors of the economy and the implementation of the devolution policy.”
President Mnangagwa said the country is also battling Covid-19, “which has claimed some decorated members of the ZDF family in the name of Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Perrance Shiri, who was a long time
Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe and Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement and the ZDF Director of Public Relations, Colonel Overson Mugwisi, among others. May their souls rest in eternal peace”.
He said the battle with the pandemic requires discipline, bravery and unity which are embodied in the Defence Forces that were being celebrated yesterday.
“We must be united and fight this invisible enemy together. It is our collective responsibility to protect our nation, our families and our beloved ones.
“As responsible citizens, let us all co-operate with our security services, assisted by the ZDF as they enforce our national laws. We commend the ZDF for continuing to be a people’s army, a reputation it has built over the years,” said President Mnangagwa.