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ZDF a formidable, disciplined force for the people: Gen Sibanda

by Staff reporter
11 Aug 2020 at 08:10hrs | Views
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda shares his views on the significance of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day, below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: What is the significance of the Zimbabwe Forces Day Commemorations?
A: It is important because the commemorations give the nation an opportunity to reflect on the historical formation of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in 1980. The ZDF were formed from the formerly warring forces of ZANLA and ZIPRA on one hand and the Rhodesian forces on the other, it is pleasing to note that The Zimbabwe Defence Forces has since its formation transformed into a formidable, loyal and disciplined force.

The country should take this opportunity to pay tribute to members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, these are men and women who have dedicated their lives to safeguard the country's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The celebrations are also a statement of intent that members of the ZDF are ready to pay the supreme sacrifice in defence of the country.

Q: Are there any community assistance projects that the ZDF has been carrying out since the beginning of 2020.
A: The ZDF has over the years carried out various community assistance projects throughout the country as part of the organisation's civil relations with people. These include free medical clinics mostly for the less privileged members of the society, children and elderly people's homes.

During the period 2019-20, the ZDF managed to carry out various projects in all the country's provinces. These include the construction or renovations of classroom blocks, clinics and staff accommodation. The following projects have been selected for handover during the period 30 July to August 6 2020; computer laboratory at Ndarama High school in Masvingo, Munikwa Clinic in Shurugwi, double storey classroom block at Mpopoma High School in Bulawayo, classroom block at Dhirihori Primary School in Marondera and teacher's houses at Murongwe Secondary School.

The handover programme was however postponed to a later date due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q: What was the intervention in the Cyclone Idai disaster 2019?
A: The Zimbabwe Defence Forces is just one of the components that are integral to the disaster response mechanism. Although the ZDF reacted promptly to the distress and deployed our troops who rendered the first assistance, the extent of damage caused to communication lines, roads, key infrastructure and bad weather made the search and rescue a daunting task.

Cyclone Idai Operation was a learning curve for all of us and this will obviously prompt us to improve our disaster management concept. While there is a need for us to invest in disaster early warning systems, there will also be a need to develop procedures on the action to be taken once a disaster warning is given to prevent unnecessary loss of human lives.

Q: 40 years after independence land mines continue to be a thorn in the flesh. How much progress is being made in de-mining?
A: The ZDF is involved in de-mining activities along our border with Mozambique where we still have landmines that were planted during the colonial era by the Ian Smith regime as a means of hindering the progress of the liberation struggle.

The areas that are still mine-infested restrict agricultural land use, access to water as well as hinder the construction and maintenance of infrastructure thus denying these areas progress in socio-economic development. As a result of ZDF demining efforts, the demining in the areas along our border with Zambia was completed in 2016. The completion of the demining of the Victoria Falls to Mlibizi area enabled use of the land for tourism purposes, agricultural production and paved way for the construction of the hydro-electric power project at the Batoka Gorge. The Burma Valley area was also cleared and is now being used for banana production.

Demining has also been carried out at Sango Border Post, Nyamapanda Border Post, and Machipanda (Forbes) Border Post to allow for the expansion of the border posts. In the recent past, the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with cooperating partners namely HALO Trust, Norwegian People's Aid, Mine Action Group and APOPO which is still to start.

Operations will start in 2021 to assist our National Mine Clearance Teams in the demining programme. Although Zimbabwe missed the OTTAWA TREATY of 1999 obligation of ensuring we achieved a landmine free country by 2009, great strides were being made towards achieving a landmine free Zimbabwe by 2025. The biggest constraints that inhibit the quick completion of these operations are mainly funding and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: ZDF involvement in Sadc, AU and UN activities.
A: For the past two years no exercises were carried out because of various reasons. However, pending exercises "CHOMELA" to be hosted by Botswana and Riverline Exercises to be co-hosted by DRC and Tanzania. As the ZDF, we benefit immensely from these exercises in terms of interoperability and cohesion within the Regional Forces. African Union Deployment. Zimbabwe as a member state to AU has five officers deployed on AU Headquarters and Peacekeeping Missions in Somalia and Cameroon.

The replacement of the late Major-General Trust Mugova as Chief of Staff African Standby Force will take up his appointment from the 1st of September 2020. United Nations Peacekeeping Deployments and Observer Missions. Zimbabwe continues to take its place in the contribution to UN Peacekeeping Operations and currently has 23 officers deployed on various Peacekeeping and Observer Missions mainly on the African continent. Some of the countries they are deployed include Cameroon, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, South Sudan and DRC.

Q: How has the ZDF fared during the period that we are experiencing the negative effects of Covid-19
A: The ZDF developed comprehensive Covid-19 related programmes in support of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and also its own internal measures which include the following:

Production of Alcohol-Based Sanitisers and face masks at Darwandale. Sanitisation and temperature checks of all people at all cantonment entry points. Carrying out Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Covid-19 screening and testing measures. Production of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material such as posters and banners.

The ZDF also participated in the meeting which gave birth to the National Command Centre C-19 led by the Civil Protection Unit (CPU). Officers and men of the ZDF have also been seconded to the National Command Centre.

Q: What would like to share with the country in celebrating the Defence Forces day?
A: In Zimbabwe, we seem to have a love-hate relationship with the military. There are times when the people like the military and there are times when they do not like the ministry. This is because of social media and what is flighted by different individuals who post on social media.

The truth of matter is the ZDF belong to the people. The role is to provide security to the State. We belong to this country and we are meant to serve the people of Zimbabwe. We find people trashing the defence forces like the Defence forces belong to somebody.

They don't belong to one person. It is unfortunate that we have some among us who would like to believe that this is a foreign force and therefore should be trashed left right and centre. I would like to urge Zimbabweans to understand that we are an institution of the State, but we belong to the people of Zimbabwe.

Source - the herald