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The Herald / General Constantine Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces
SK: Commander Defence Forces, General Chiwenga, Sir, it is, once again that time when the Zimbabwe Defence Forces showcase their corporate social responsibilities through giving back to the communities that provide them a recruitment base for new members. First and foremost, Sir is the country safe from internal and external threats?
CC: The short answer to your question is that the country is secure and the people of Zimbabwe should feel free to go about their usual business. However, there is a spirited attempt by the country’s detractors from the West to target those Southern African countries which are under the administration of former liberation movements for illegal regime change.
The detractors’ ultimate objective is to topple former liberation governments and replace them with puppet pro-West regimes that are willing to protect powerful countries’ selfish imperial economic interests.
They are spearheading the regime change agenda through the Western-led “Ring-fencing strategy.”
Zimbabwe is one of the targeted countries due to her progressive national development policies meant to empower the majority of her people.
In view of these Western machinations, Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) remain alert and resolute in defence of the country’s bloody, bitter and hard won independence, this Constitution, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests in order to guarantee continued peace and stability, which is necessary for sustainable national socio-economic development and the prosperity of the future generations to come.
Thus the ZDF continues to fulfil its defence mandate in line with this year’s organisation running theme, “The Zimbabwe Defence Forces: Resolute in defence of national sovereignty and territorial integrity for socio-economic development’.
SK: The situation in Mozambique has been of concern for some time. Is the population safe from the Renamo threat in view of the recent influx of refugees fleeing disturbances in that country?
CC: People should not read too much into the influx of refugees into Zimbabwe. The security situation in Mozambique is now under control as the Mozambican government and the opposition, Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo) have stopped fighting. They are now pushing peaceful resolution for their conflict with a ceasefire that is holding.
SK: Villagers living in landmine-infested areas along the country’s borders have remained victims of landmine threat since Independence. How far has the ZDF gone with mine clearance in these risk areas?
CC: At Independence in 1980, there were eight distinct linear minefields in Zimbabwe, covering approximately 850 kilometres of land along the country’s borders. The country still has the highest density of landmines in the world.
It should be remembered, however, that landmines were planted by Rhodesian army at the height of the liberation war, although this was a futile attempt to deny safe passage to freedom fighters crossing the country’s borders to conduct military operations against the Rhodesian security forces.
Sadly, the landmines have continued to kill and maim our people living in areas adjacent to mine fields. Domestic and wild animals that stray into the mined areas have also fallen victim to the landmine menace.
In its effort to ensure human and animal security in landmine-infested areas along the country’s borders, the ZDF together with international cooperating partners have continued to clear the landmines over the years.
The Victoria to Mlibizi minefields, which covered 220 kilometres of land along the country’s northern border with Zambia, was cleared of landmines by ZDF engineers with assistance from cooperating partners and the land has since been handed over to local authorities for tourism.
Along the eastern Zimbabwe-Mozambique border, about four kilometres of the Burma Valley minefield was cleared by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and the land has since been under commercial banana production.
A 28-kilometre stretch minefield from Chigango to Mukumbura, along the country’s north-eastern border was cleared by the Halo Trust and the land will be handed over to local authorities next month, September 2017.
Progress has been made from Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner on the Limpopo River, where 21 kilometres of land has been cleared by ZDF engineers so far and will be ready by year end, after which the de-mining exercise from Mwenezi to Crooks Corner shall continue.
SK: What is the ZDF doing at the moment since Zimbabwe is not at war?
CC: Basically, our cycle of activity as a defence force is guided by what we call the 4Ds concept; that is Detection, Deterrence, Destruction and Defence. The major preoccupation of the ZDF in peacetime therefore is to train and equip for war.
It has often been said that if you wish peace, prepare for war or if you wish for peace, study war.
We progressively recruit and train suitably qualifying young Zimbabweans to fill vacancies created on our approved defence establishment from normal staff turnover including retirement, resignations and natural attrition.
Recruitment is equitably carried out in all the country’s 10 provinces. This is done to achieve ethnic balance and ensures fair demographic representation in the organisation. Furthermore, this policy helps obviate possible negative marginalisation sentiments from minority communities.
Thus, it helps guarantee future stability of the organisation in particular, and the country at large.
Besides providing recruit training for new members, ZDF subjects its members to individual training, collective training, career training for non-commissioned members, regimental training and officers’ staff training as well as their academic training.
Since Independence, the ZDF has been training its officers, up to command and staff levels.
However, major officer training establishments such as the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA), School of Academic and Staff Training (SAST) and Zimbabwe Staff College (ZSC) will soon be awarding degree qualifications through affiliation to the recently proclaimed Zimbabwe National Defence University (ZNDU) in addition to their normal military training awards.
Thus, the ZDF has transformed its training institutions over the years from purely military training establishments to integrated military and academic training institutions.
Integrated military and academic training obviously helps strengthen defence training and also improves the calibre of our military officers in line with progressive regional and international military training trends.
The ZNDU is training senior defence and security service officers, senior public service officials and soon will be enrolling officials from parastatals and key private sector officials.
Furthermore, the ZNDU has enrolled senior and general officers from defence forces across the African continent. The National Defence Force run at the institution is pitched at strategic level.
Participation by allied students is aimed at enhancing inter-operability, which is critical for mutual understanding and future military cooperation necessary for peace building and stability in the region and beyond.
Establishment of the ZNDU has not only introduced defence and security studies at strategic level, but also provides a national think-tank that helps spur national development through provision of well-researched solutions to national security challenges.
The effort is facilitated through the Institute of Strategic Research and Analysis (ISRA), which is an integral component of ZNDU.
Two courses are currently running at the ZNDU. These are the National Defence Course and the Master of Science in International Studies degree. The degree programme helps buttress national security studies at the institution.
A number of other faculties will open in due course to satisfy both future ZNDU needs and also the country’s national development requirements. Improved academic training of ZDF officers in Science and Technology is expected to give impetus to planned modernisation of the ZDF.
SK: Is there any cooperation between ZDF and other defence forces of the region and beyond?
CC: The ZDF is cooperating well with other defence forces of the region in a number of areas including training at different levels.
Local military training institutions like Zimbabwe School of Infantry, the Zimbabwe Military Academy, the Zimbabwe Staff College, the School of Academic and Staff Training and the recently established Zimbabwe National Defence University have continued to train officers of regional defence forces together with our own officers.
The ZNDU is training officers from a number of countries across the continent. Furthermore, the ZDF has a training cooperation with Sadc regional countries including Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Beyond the region, the ZDF is taking offers from countries such as Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. The ZDF continues to take training vacancies offered by countries such as China, India, Pakistan, Russia and others. All this training cooperation is aimed at promoting mutual understanding with cooperating defence forces through increased military diplomacy to enhance peace prospects in the region and beyond.
Currently, the ZDF is participating in a Special Forces Regional Exercise Matumbahwe in Tanzania. The ZDF is also participating in the on-going Russian games hosted by the Russian Federation, Belarus, China and Kazakhstan.
SK: Does the ZDF have a direct role in the economic development of the country?
CC: The ZDF has a role to play in the economic life of the country as it contributes to national security through participation in the national development activities. Defence national development activities are undertaken as the organisation’s Secondary Roles through Military Aid to Civil Ministries, Communities or Authorities. Military aid is often provided to needy communities throughout the year as corporate social responsibility.
This is done through a number of developmental programmes and projects such as construction and repair of public infrastructure including schools, classrooms, clinics, roads, bridges, vocational training centres and others.
The programmes are run in ZNA Formations and AFZ Bases within their respective tactical areas of responsibility. They are highlighted during the Community Assistance Week as a build up towards the ZDF Day celebrations.
In support of the Command Agriculture initiated by Government to eradicate hunger, ZDF has strategically deployed officers and men to help drive this programme. The ZDF has furthermore embarked on a self-reliance programme dubbed Project Sustain aimed at enhancing food self-sufficiency in all military establishments.
This years’ ZDF Community Assistance Week ran from 07 to 11 August 2017. The Minister of Defence has since launched the programme at Himango Secondary School, Bulilima District-Matabeleland South Province on 7 August 2017.
The handover of other Community Assistance Projects will run until end of September 2017 countrywide.Source: The Herald