The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has been challenged to take advantage of the National University of Science and Technology (Nust)’s Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) by creating a genetic database for its members.
Speaking at the commissioning of the centre in Bulawayo Friday, the institution’s Director Zephaniah Dlamini said the genetic database will help the army to identify troops who would have died while in action.
In 1998, Zimbabwe deployed thousands of soldiers to DRC to assist the then Laurent Kabila led government suppress a Hutu led armed insurgency that was threatening to overrun Kinshasa and overthrow the now late leader.
Similarly, in the early 1980s, Zimbabwe also dispatched troops to neighbouring Mozambique to subdue banditry activities perpetrated by the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) against civilians.
In both operations, Zimbabwe lost a significant number of servicemen and military hardware while in combat.
Some of the dead were buried in mass graves in the neighbouring countries while some had their remains repatriated.
“We envisaged that our uniformed forces will take advantage of this technological advancement which is now within their reach and create a database of their members’ DNA fingerprints for ease of identification in case they die in action as the norm the world over.
“Gone are days of having tombs of the unknown soldiers. We are now equipped to identify any remains of our service personnel,” said Dlamini.
He also revealed that AGTC is also planning to extend its services to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks).
“We are negotiating with Zimparks to train their personnel in DNA testing technologies for endangered species such as Rhinos, pangolins and elephants.
“We will help develop databases which will be used to establish the identity and origin of poached animals,” said Dlamini.
The Director also urged the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take advantage of the same facility to create a DNA database for employees so as to flush out ghost workers.
AGTC was set up in August 2017 with the aim of making technology of genetics affordable to the public.
Prior to the setting up of the facility, Zimbabweans seeking paternity testing would travel as far as South Africa and the United Kingdom seeking such services.
More than 2 000 paternity tests have been conducted at the centre since its establishment.