Better deal for defence forces

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Political Editor
Salaries and conditions of service for the country’s defence forces, who sacrifice even with their lives to ensure that peace and tranquillity prevails for sustainable economic development, will be improved, President Mnangagwa has said.

In an address to the nation to mark Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Day yesterday, which this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic was a virtual ceremony at State House, the President commended the forces for creating a conducive environment that will ensure that the Government realises Vision 2030 to become a middle income economy.

“I am aware of the sacrificial nature and service ethos of the defence forces. However, my administration remains determined to improve the salaries and conditions of service for our 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. Mobility, requisite training equipment and research and development needs will be equally funded to ensure the modernisation and improvement of our national defence capabilities,” he said.

The 40th celebrations of the ZDF were this year held under the theme “ZDF: Celebrating 40 Years of Excellent Service to the People”, which captures how the country’s forces are people’s forces.

“Today, we celebrate the numerous achievements scored over the last 40 years since the formation of the ZDF. This occasion is happening on the backdrop of successive accomplishments by our defence forces to defend our motherland Zimbabwe from detractors, divisive elements and enemies.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Defence and War Veterans Minister  Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and service chiefs attended the reduced ceremony.

Apart from the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that the public was not treated to the parades and military displays as has become the norm on the day, the celebrations were also held at a time when the country is facing a relentless attack.

“The commemorations which we are holding this year under the theme, ‘ZDF: Celebrating 40 Years of Excellent Service to the People,’ are 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 our forces. This has been coupled with the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Sadly, the virus 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,” the President said.

He also praised the ZDF for professionally executing its constitutional mandate, something that has ensured that peace prevails in the country for socio-economic development.

“The ZDF has since its formation acquitted itself with distinction and high professionalism and for this they deserve a big compliment. 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.

The ZDF was formed in 1980 after the country attained independence from Britain. Back then President Mnangagwa chaired the Joint Command that oversaw the integration of ZANLA, ZIPRA and the Rhodesian Forces.

Today the ZDF stands tall as one of the most professional armies on the continent with a proven record in peacekeeping missions.

“Whilst maintaining peace in the country, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces continue to participate in regional and international peace-keeping missions under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community, African Union and the United Nations.

“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. 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 advanced stages. Their involvement in these international activities exposes our forces to the use of modern military equipment as well as strengthening ties between our forces and allies,” he said.

In times of difficulties, such as the 2019 Cyclone Idai natural disaster that left a trail of death and destruction, the ZDF has always stepped in to serve the people and save lives, something that has endeared them to the country as a whole. Then the ZDF played a significant role in carrying out search and rescue

operations and helped “in restoring the damaged infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and clinics”.

“All these activities demonstrate the commitment of the Defence Forces to serve the nation and the close relationship that exists between them and the generality of the Zimbabwean population. This rich history of assisting communities is commendable and must continue to be the hallmark of our defence forces.

“I commend the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for embracing my Government’s vision of attaining an Upper Middle Income Economy by 2030. In that regard, the ZDF engineers and artisans are engaged in various construction projects to precipitate development of our communities throughout the country.”

Apart from carrying out risky rescue operations, the ZDF is currently at the forefront enforcing measures that the Government introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19 which has killed more than 100 people locally.

“Fellow Zimbabweans: Our battle with Covid-19 pandemic requires discipline, bravery and unity which are embodied in the personalities we are celebrating today. 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 cooperate 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 the President.

“I want to thank you all for joining the entire Zimbabwe Defence Forces family in commemorating this special day, the ZDF 40th Anniversary. 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. 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,” he said.

As part of its works, the ZDF is still involved in clearing the huge fields of anti-personnel landmines laid by the Rhodesian regime during the liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s.

Areas that are being cleared include communities along the Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner Minefield.

“Government is committed to clear all land mines across the country to give full meaning to independence, freedom and development for the affected communities. Cooperating partners, Hazardous Life Support Organisation Trust, Mines Advisory Group and Norwegian People’s Aid are also progressing well in similar demining operations. Let me take this opportunity to express my Government’s sincere appreciation for the assistance we are getting from these organisations,” he said.

Turning to the country’s war veterans, the President said the Second Republic has resuscitated the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill which, when passed 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. 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,” he said.