Our Senior Reporter Innocent Ruwende interviews Vice President and Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs Dr Constantino Chiwenga ahead of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day today.
Q: Honourable Vice President and Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, sir, in line with your Defence Forces theme, “The Zimbabwe Defence Forces Contribution to International Peace and Security”, what are the major ZDF contributions that you may want to share with the nation today?
A: 1. Angola
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces has a rich history of contributing to international peace and security dating back to 1991 when the United Nations (UN) extended its maiden request to Zimbabwe to contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in Angola (UNAVEM I).
The request was a welcome development to Zimbabwe in general and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in particular, as it provided a unique opportunity for the Defence Forces to rub shoulders with other international defence forces.
The Government of Zimbabwe gladly accepted the request, responded positively to the UN and subsequently deployed a contingent of 15 officers to that country, charged with the responsibility of restoring peace and security in order to achieve national reconciliation between the warring factions of UNITA and MPLA.
The contingent was also to help monitor the demobilisation process and free movement of people and goods in that country.
In 1991, Zimbabwe also received another invitation from the United Nations to contribute troops to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (UNOSOM). The mission was responsible for coordinating humanitarian assistance, monitoring the ceasefire, safeguarding, as well as distributing relief supplies.
This mission also gave the ZDF an opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism to the international community.
Furthermore, in 1993, Zimbabwe received yet another invitation from the world body to contribute troops to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), where the mission was responsible for monitoring the ceasefire and implementing the peace agreement between Rwanda Patriotic Front and the Government. The ZDF also undertook its mission responsibilities very well, thereby earning itself earning international recognition.
4. Other UN missions: Following their success in the above stated missions, the ZDF was subsequently invited to deploy military observers in other UN peacekeeping missions in countries including Burundi, Sudan, Liberia, Nepal, South Sudan and Ivory Coast to name just but a few.
5. Training Co-operation: In addition to contributing members to the different peacekeeping missions, the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs is also promoting peace and security through training co-operation of military officers in the region and beyond. This has seen the ZDF enrolling members of foreign, regional and international defence forces in its local military training programmes.
The ZDF also continues to take training slots offered by friendly countries in their defence establishments.
Q: As a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), what are some of the peace initiatives that the ZDF have participated in?
A: On the regional and continental front, the ZDF is also contributing to international peace and stability by co-operating with other SADC and AU member states through their contributions to SADC Standby Brigade and the Africa Standby Force respectively.
In addition, the ZDF continues to attend all the regional and continental security meetings deliberating solutions on security challenges in SADC and AU member states.
The ZDF intervened in Mozambique to safeguard the country’s economic lifeline through the Port of Beira.
We also deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo to promote peace and security in the SADC region.
Q: Going forward, Honourable Vice President, Sir, what is your vision of the ZDF’s contribution to regional and international peace and security?
A: My view is that current regional co-operation arrangements by our Defence Forces be must be maintained and strengthened where necessary to enhance peace and security in the region and beyond.
Military training co-operation undertaken by the Defence Forces in the region has gone a long way in fostering peace, security and stability.
Zimbabwe has always opened her reputable training establishments such as the Zimbabwe Staff College, School of Academic and Staff Training (SAST), the Zimbabwe Military Academy, All Arms Battle School and others to members of other regional defence forces to enhance training co-operation.
In addition to these traditional training institutions, Zimbabwe also opened the Zimbabwe National Defence University as the highest institution of military and academic excellence to further enhance such training initiatives.
This is in line with my vision of achieving a secure regional environment through enhanced military cooperation in the region and beyond.