The evolution of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces

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THE most important message that emanated from President Robert Mugabe’s speech during the 34th anniversary of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is that veterans of the country’s liberation struggle helped shape the evolution of Zimbabwe’s security forces.
But this history will not be fully captured without mentioning the roles of the founding figures of Zimbabwe’s freedom like Mbuya Nehanda, King Lobengula, Kaguvi, Chaminuka, to mention, but a few.
The First and Second Chimurenga were waged on the back of the need to shake off the shackles of the repressive Rhodesian regime.
The attainment of independence saw the ZDF becoming an amalgamation of the two liberation struggle forces, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe Peoples Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) and the Rhodesian army.
Already the ZDF has taken steps to streamline the country’s history through its Military History Project which is part of the Zimbabwe Liberation Heritage Preservation Project launched two years ago.
The Commander of the ZDF General Constantine Chiwenga told a local daily on the eve of the celebrations that the history of the liberation war and the origins of ZDF should be recorded accurately to help future generations understand it from an African perspective and draw some lessons.
In his address to the thousands who gathered at the giant National Sports Stadium, President Mugabe said the coming into being of the ZDF was as a result of the various forms of repression perpetrated by the Rhodesian establishment.
The repression, President Mugabe said, started with white settlers displacing indigenous people from fertile to unproductive land which was unsuitable for either cropping or grazing.
This oppression produced intense discontent among Zimbabweans and gave rise to the likes of Benjamin Burombo through trade unionism.
The result of the discontent and trade unionism grew and matured into political parties of the 1950s and 1960s.
The theme of the celebrations ‘The Genesis of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in Defence of National Sovereignty, Social and Economic Development’ was befitting in that it reflected on the origin, role, achievements, aims and plans of the National Defence Forces, President Mugabe said.
“The Genesis of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces sprang from the varied forms of oppression perpetrated by white colonialists on the black majority,” said President Mugabe.
“The white settlers were quick to displace blacks, forcing them to occupy unproductive land which was unsuitable for either cropping or grazing.
“In addition, blacks were forced to radically reduce their cattle, a symbol of their wealth. As if that was not enough, the indigenous people were forced to be white farmers’ labourers.
“Such intense discontent, born out of the suffocating oppression by white settlers, culminated in the emergence of early trade unionism. Led by the likes of Benjamin Burombo, trade unionism gave rise to a national consciousness, which grew and matured into political parties of the 1950s and 1960s.”
Despite these difficult beginnings, President Mugabe said, the ZDF have evolved to become a strong force.
“Having been established from such difficult and humble beginnings, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces gradually evolved to become the solid force that it is now,” said President Mugabe.
“They have scored several successes, especially in the provision of human resources not only for Zimbabwe, but for other countries in the region.
“The Zimbabwe Staff College has over the years played host to officers from the region for both its junior and senior staff training programmes.
“The Air Wing of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces went a step further and assisted its South African, Malawian and Tanzanian counterparts in the training of pilots and technicians.
“A team of Zimbabwe Defence Forces officers is currently attached to the Namibian Defence Forces, assisting with military training programmes.”
The ZDF anniversary also saw 21 pioneers of the liberation struggle being honoured with medals, together with six serving ZDF members and three who are retired.
The ZDF members were honoured for their exploits while executing several missions, especially during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Operation Sovereign Legitimacy.
Pioneers of the liberation struggle who were honoured were Cdes John Makwasha, Loice Chimimba Chuma, Pilate Dube, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, Sibongile Ncube Matavire, Phibion Sipanera, Jaison Chirinda, Edison Joseph Khumalo, Tineyi Chigudu, Noel Museredza, Irene Mareesa Dube, Juliet Chitsungo and Onias Garikai Bhasha.
The others who were honoured for their role in pioneering the struggle were Cde Georgina Minizhu, Reuben Vurayayi Mafika, Wereki Sandiyani, Darican Nyarende, Shadreck Chipanga, Florence Miti and Niffa Makoto.
The important message delivered on the Heroes and Defence Forces Days was the need to record our history.
This is the history that will not only shape our future but the present for a better tomorrow.

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