An Army with a proud record

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THE backbone of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) was formed during the country’s war of liberation.
And if there are any doubts on the pedigree of this esteemed force, one needs only to look at the achievements they have made since the country attained independence.
These are people who can best be described as products of the country’s revolution.
Their ideological orientation can be seen in the January 9 2002 pronouncement by then Commander of the ZDF, the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, that leadership in the country is premised on what he described as a ‘straightjacket’ basis.
Through this pronouncement, General Zvinavashe and indeed the rest of the ZDF laid bare the criterion for assuming leadership of the nation; one has to conform and meet the tenets and ideology that drove and sustained the liberation struggle.
In 1980, the then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Cde Robert Mugabe, declared that integrating Zimbabwe’s three armed forces would be one of Zimbabwe’s top priorities.
The Rhodesian Army, which at independence was the existing army, was combined with the two guerilla armies; the 20 000-strong Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) forces and the 15 000-strong Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).
A British Military Assistance and Training Team played a role in assisting in the creation of the new army. 
Under the integration programme, the Rhodesian Air Force was re-organised as the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
The new Army immediately got into action.
Operation Lemon, the first of the ZDF follow-up operations was launched from Katiyo and Aberdeen in northern Manicaland.
The five-day operation lasted from December 5 to 9 1984.
It comprised elements of 3 Brigade, the Parachute Group, Special Air Service (SAS), and was supported by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ).
Bad weather conditions and the difficult mountainous terrain reduced the use of aircraft, and all the trooping had to be done by helicopters.
The movement of troops on the ground was also difficult.
The ZNA has played a significant role towards ensuring that peace and tranquility prevailed in Mozambique between 1983-1992 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the Southern African Development Community Allied Forces from 1998 to 2002.
The DRC operation was code-named ‘Operation Sovereign Legitimacy’.
Pursuant to its external commitment, the ZNA participated in observer and peacekeeping missions in Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, Lesotho, Cote d’lvoire, Liberia, Nepal, Burundi and Sudan.
Furthermore, the Army has taken part in flood and other natural disaster rescue operations in Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique. 
The roles of the ZNA include defending Zimbabwe’s territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty, socio economic well-being, vital interests and participation in peacekeeping operations.
Tasks undertaken by the ZNA to fulfil these roles include Conventional War Operations, Military Aid to Civil Power (which encompasses Counter Insurgency Operations and Internal Security Operations), Military Aid to Civil Ministries/Communities and Military Operations in Support of International Order and Humanitarian Assistance.    
On March 7 2004, the ZDF intercepted a planeload of mercenaries on their way to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where they intended to depose the Government of President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
The Air Wing of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has played host to officers from the region for both its Junior and Senior Staff Training Programmes.
The Air Wing department has also assisted its South African, Malawian and Tanzanian counterparts in the training of pilots and technicians.
A team of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is currently attached to the Namibian Defence Forces, assisting with military training programmes.
Last year, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces provided security during the 2015 African Cup of Nations tournament held in Equatorial Guinea.
Zimbabwe’s first UN deployment came in 1991 in the UN Verification Mission in Angola (UNAVEM II).
The good performance of the Zimbabwean detachment earned the country credibility that led to further UN requests for its personnel.
Since then, personnel from the country’s uniformed forces, including the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPS), have participated in UN missions including in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, East Timor, Eritrea, Kosovo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan.
Significantly, women’s representation in Zimbabwe’s peacekeeping forces continues to increase.
In 2011, 31 percent of Zimbabweans in peacekeeping forces were women.
This increased to 42 percent in 2012. 
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was particularly close to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ (DPKO) target of 20 percent female representation; as of 2012, 18 percent of the peacekeepers from the police were women. 
As of December 2014, roughly 41 percent of Zimbabwean peacekeepers are female.

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