Today, the MDC Alliance joins the nation in commemorating our Defence Forces. It is 40 years since the Zimbabwe Defence Forces came into being through the integration of the ZIPRA and ZANLA liberation armies and the Rhodesian colonial forces in 1980. This year’s commemoration of four decades of service presents an opportunity to reflect on the history and direction of our Defence Forces. There would be no independent Zimbabwe were it not for ZIPRA and ZANLA, whose liberation war feats helped force the uncooperative colonial Rhodesian government to the 1979 Independence talks at Lancaster House. We owe a great debt to the two liberation armies.
The constitutionally defined roles of the Defence Forces are to protect Zimbabwe’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, to partake in the design of shared regional security architecture, to play a role in the preservation of international stability and peace, and to offer military assistance to civil authority in times of need.
Our Defence Forces have distinguished themselves in many of their constitutionally defined roles. For 40 years they have safeguarded Zimbabwe’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our Defence Forces have played an active part in SADC’s security architecture. We take pride in their sterling performances in various peacekeeping missions in Africa and in the role they continue to play in aiding civil authority to save lives, deliver humanitarian aid and spearhead emergency reconstruction as they did in 2019 in the wake of Cyclone Idai.
However, the Defence Forces’ 40 years of existence have not been unblemished. We note with particular sadness the politicisation of the Defence Forces for domestic repression, and the continued militarisation of the civic space.
On this day of commemoration, we call on the Defence Forces to remember their constitutional mandate to the people of Zimbabwe. We ask that they act in a manner that better serves the interests of all Zimbabweans, by fully complying with their constitutional obligation to respect the lives and dignity of the people in the execution of their duties. In the new Zimbabwe, weapons and arms of war will never be deployed to support a political party’s partisan interests or impede the people’s right to demonstrate peacefully but instead support collective national interests taking due cognisance of the fundamental rights and diversity of the citizenry.
Perhaps, the most significant commemoration we can give to our Defence Forces on this day, is to collectively call for the improvement of the conditions of service for rank and file soldiers as well as plead with each and every member of the Defence Forces to remember that the people of Zimbabwe are not their enemies, instead we ask that they work to protect the people instead of fighting them.
Happy Defence Forces’ Day.