Speech by his Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, GCZM, on the occasion of the 33rd Anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, National Sports Stadium, August 13 2013.Honourable Vice-President, Comrade Joyce Teurai Ropa Mujuru, Honourable Minister of Defence, Honourable Ministers here present, Secretary for Defence, Comrade Martin Rushwaya, Commander Defence Forces, General Constantine Guvheya Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant General Philip Valerio Sibanda, Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, Commissioner General of Police, Comrade Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner of Prisons, Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, Chief of the Namibian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Ndaitwah, Senior Government Officials here present, Senior Army, Air Force, Police and Prison Officers here present, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends.
It is a great honour for me to join the pomp and fanfare that are today part of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ 33rd anniversary celebrations. Indeed, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have every reason to celebrate in style considering the fact that Zimbabwe has been one of the most peaceful nations in the region and on the African continent since our attainment of independence in 1980.
Such peace was not just natural but a product of the professional ability of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to undertake their constitutional mandate of safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity over its land and air space. It is, therefore, surprising that some misguided fellow countrymen, at the behest of their Western allies, blatantly disregard the good work done by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in maintaining peace and tranquillity in the country.
They disguise this by demanding what they call “Security Sector Reform” when it is obvious the enemy’s real ploy is to dilute the efficiency of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. These celebrations are thus an appeal to all peace-loving Zimbabweans to resist the enemy’s strategy. It is imperative for us always to work hand-in-glove with our defence forces, more so given the renewed neo-colonial advances by our erstwhile colonisers.
The 33rd anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is being held under the theme “Zimbabwe Defence Forces in Defence of National Sovereignty, Social and Economic Development.” The theme is more relevant to the country as we travel the crucial path of consolidating the gains of our hard-won independence through the total economic emancipation of our people under the motto “Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Employ.”
In spite of the demonisation that we have endured over the past 13 years under the West’s regime change agenda in conjunction with their local allies, they have failed to frustrate our noble efforts and determination to consolidate our economic independence through the total control of our natural resources. The indigenisation and empowerment drive will continue unabated in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country’s resources.
Now that the people of Zimbabwe have granted us a resounding mandate in the governance of the country, we will do everything in our power to ensure that our objective of total indigenisation, empowerment, development and employment is realised. This is our final phase of implementing the ideals of the liberation struggle, which started with the attainment of political independence in 1980, which was followed by the indigenisation of the land that was largely owned by the minority settler white community for nearly a century.
May I, therefore, extend to all Zimbabweans, my hearty congratulations for voting peacefully and showing our foreign detractors that our destiny lies in our hands. May I also thank you most sincerely for bringing to an end the unproductive inclusive Government and for restoring your confidence in the Zanu-PF Government.
Contrary to what our critics believe, the indigenisation programme is not peculiar to Zimbabwe as it has also been successfully implemented in various other countries.
Surprisingly though, it has not drawn the hype and demonisation that it has done in this country. Our position as the Zimbabwean Government is to pursue this beneficial policy to its successful conclusion. I am happy to note that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have remained vigilant and resolute in defence of the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests that include our natural resources.
Security is a basic need that varies from the individual to the national level. Over the last 33 years, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have developed their capacity and capability to provide the much-needed national security that has made them the envy of many. It is in this regard that members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have rendered complementary support to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) in their border control operations to curb illegal border crossing and smuggling of goods.
Similar support has also been rendered to the ZRP at Chiadzwa diamond fields to curb illegal diamond panning and associated illicit dealings.
As we might be aware, Zimbabwe is a State Party of the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Landmines, which we ratified in 1999. The Convention brings together all states that have problems of landmines.
Zimbabweans will recall that since independence, the country has grappled with the scourge of anti-personnel landmines that were laid by the Smith regime along our borders with Mozambique and Zambia.
The need to clear these landmines saw us join the Ottawa Convention, which, among other obligations, required us to clear most landmines within our territory within 10 years of our joining the Convention, that is, by 2009. However, due to the costly nature of landmine clearance and the unavailability of resources on our part, Zimbabwe could not meet this deadline.
Consequently we had to seek and were granted three successive extensions, with the latest 24-month extension granted in November last year. In pursuit of this objective of meeting our deadline, members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have been tirelessly working on the clearance of landmines along our border with Mozambique.
Relatively slow progress has been registered on the Sango Border Post to Crook’s Corner minefield owing to limited available resources.
In a bid to quicken up the process of clearing the landmines, the Ministry of Defence contracted two international de-mining non-governmental organisations, which will complement the military de-miners’ efforts.
One of the NGOs has already started work while the other one is set to start soon after its logistical arrangements are in place. Landmines have continued to be a menace to the communities living around the minefields and a hindrance to their access to the productive use of their land. In addition to the work they undertook on the Sango Border Post to Crook’s Corner minefield, members of the Zimbabwe National Army Engineer Demining Squadron also cleared landmines on approximately 2 400 square metres of land at Kariba Power Station from March to May 2013.
The task was carried out to pave way for the expansion of the Kariba South Power Station. The cleared land has been handed over to the Zimbabwe Power Company for their expansion project. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces also conducted numerous community assistance projects throughout the country, the most notable ones being the rehabilitation of the Tangwena Road in Nyanga, the construction of Murongwe Primary School in Dande, construction of two classroom blocks at Mbizo High School in Kwekwe, Nyakasikana Primary School in Beatrice and Nyazani River Bridge in Matabeleland South.
Such projects demonstrate the intimate and harmonious relations that exist between the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the entire Zimbabwean community which go a long way in alleviating the social problems that the communities may be facing. At the same time, they demonstrate what the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are capable of doing during peacetime.
In addition to these, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces also assisted civil authorities in various capacities which include the provision of helicopters to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for the referendum, search and rescue operations for marooned villagers and fishermen in Gokwe, Beitbridge, along Save and Mutirikwi rivers, and the secondment of 100 Central Vehicle Registry staff in Chiendambuya, Makoni District.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces also rendered similar assistance to other organisations such as the Zimbabwe Parachute Association in Kariba, Natbrew Castle Tankard, OK Grand Challenge and the Zimbabwe Tourism International Carnival.
On the regional front, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces participated in joint regional training exercises NINGOSILE, HIGHLANDER and DESERT THUNDER that were held in Zambia, Lesotho and Namibia respectively. The importance of such joint training exercises cannot be over-emphasised as they promote much-needed co-operation, togetherness and oneness.
It is only through such initiatives that the region will be able to bust the imperialists’ divide-and-rule tactics. Such initiatives are continuing for the development of our defence forces.
The planning process for a Special Forces Training Exercise to be held in Namibia is under way while a Joint Riverine Operation is also being planned amongst Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
In the same vein, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces hosted a three-day Sadc Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC) Human Resources Working Group meeting from May 21-23 2013, and another four-day TROIKA meeting on military health in Kariba, from June 3-7 2013. All these meetings were meant to enhance the implementation of military co-operation within the region.
In the area of training, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces fulfilled all its planned training programmes at its various military training establishments. These included the Junior Staff Course, Joint Command and Staff Course and the recently introduced National Defence Course that is being run at the National Defence College, to mention just a few.
The inaugural National Defence Course is a national strategic planning course that is critical to the national security development of this country. The first intake of the National Defence Course is due to graduate on August 30 2013. In addition to the local courses, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has also sent officers, men and women for external courses to countries such as Tanzania, China, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia, Greece and Zambia.
This ensured the enhancement of efficiency and proficiency within the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Similarly, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces also offered training vacancies to students from regional defence forces at its military training establishments. Countries that have benefited include Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Over and above these training courses, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces also managed to sponsor its members to enrol in various civilian courses at various institutions throughout the country.
Conditions of service for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, like those of other civil servants, have remained below expectations, considering that their salaries and allowances fall below the Poverty Datum Line.
Transport, accommodation and personal kitting are also far below the establishment holdings. Inadequate housing also remains a major challenge for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces despite efforts being made to address the issue through construction projects at Dzivaresekwa, Khumalo and the Zimbabwe Military Academy, which have been negatively affected by poor funding.
Over the past 10 years, the fact that the Government has been battling illegal sanctions from the West has resulted in inadequate budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Defence and the entire Defence Forces establishments.
The Defence Forces have, however, remained resolute and focused on their constitutional role of defending the nation despite these challenges. Government will continue to pursue possible ways of alleviating these challenges with a view to improving the situation. In addition to the considerable efforts being made to address the issue of institutional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, similar efforts have also been made in order to alleviate their personal accommodation problems.
In this regard, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Benefit Fund (ZDF BF) has strengthened its engagement with local authorities throughout the country. Some of the completed houses have already been handed over to beneficiaries by the Honourable Minister of Defence in Gweru and Redcliff.
In conclusion, allow me to thank the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for having been such a reliable pillar of our Government throughout the 33 years of independence and for ensuring peace and tranquillity during that period. I wish them well as they proceed with their celebrations, and better circumstances in their future assignments.
Congratulations and Happy 33rd Anniversary to you.
I thank you.
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