Senior Reporter Freeman Razemba interviews ZDF Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda.
Q: Commander Defence Forces, sir, before we raise issues to do with “The ZDF Today and in the Future”, the population should be keen to hear from the horse’s mouth whether the country is still safe after the recent opposition political parties’ sponsored violent elections-related protests?
A: Zimbabwe remains secure despite the recent politically motivated violence that erupted a day after the harmonised elections on 30 July 2018.
That notwithstanding, the country continued to enjoy peace, security and stability during the harmonised elections. Had it not been for evil intentions of some opposition political players who went on to incite violent protests, unnecessary loss of life of six people who were caught up in the unfortunate shooting incidents could have been avoided.
All the same, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) remains resolute in its support for the ZRP as they continue to fulfil their constitutional mandate of maintenance of law and order to ensure peace, security and stability in the country. People are, therefore, assured that they should feel free to go about conducting their usual business.
Q: Besides provision of military assistance to the ZRP you have just discussed, what are the ZDF’s commitments during peacetime?
A: The ZDF has a number of peacetime operational commitments they have to accomplish and these include internal security operations such as:
a. Border Control Operations: Border control operations are mounted in support of the ZRP to curb incidents of illegal border crossing and smuggling of various commodities. Of late, a number of smuggling incidents have been reported along the Mozambican and South African borders.
b. Guarding of Key Points: Key points across the country are guarded to ensure their security at all times. Some such key points are the ZBC Studios, Kariba Power Station and National Oil Company (NOIC) in Msasa, just outside the Harare Central Business District.
c. Demining Operations: The ZDF is conducting demining operations in conjunction with the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Hazardous Areas of Life Support Organisation (HALO), Trust and Mine Advisory Group (MAG) in Lusulu, Mukumbura, Chiseche, Rushinga, Rwenya, Gwaivhi, Forbes Border Post, Cecil Kopje, Mt Selinda, Dumisa and Gonakudzingwa Park, along our eastern border with Mozambique.
Some of the cleared areas have since been handed over to the local authorities for different economic uses.
d. External commitments: We are continuing to contribute officers to regional and international peace support operations under the auspices of SADC, AU, and UN. Currently, we have a total of 19 officers deployed in Ethiopia, Sudar (Darfur), Sudan (Abyei), South Sudan, USA and in Lesotho.
Q: Are there any roles being played by the ZDF in support of other Government ministries?
A: The ZDF has a number of secondary roles they undertake during peacetime. These fall under the ambit of defence secondary roles and they include:
a. Military Aid to Civil Ministries (MACM)
(1) The ZDF provides military assistance to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing through the Department of Civil Protection Unit during search and rescue operations of flood victims in affected areas whenever disaster strikes anywhere in the country.
(2) The ZDF is also assisting ZIMRA to decongest busy border posts including Beitbridge, Plumtree, Forbes, Victoria Falls, Chirundu and Nyamapanda.
(3) They have officers seconded to NRZ who are helping to alleviate manpower shortages of the bulk carrier and also assist them hedge against skills flight as our disciplined seconded skilled officers and men do not run away.
(4) Other ZDF officers and men are seconded to the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Rural Resettlements where they are deployed in all country’s provinces to assist with efficient management of Command Agriculture in order to enhance the country’s food security.
Q: Does the ZDF take any social responsibility commitments in their areas of responsibility?
A: The ZDF is committed to assisting marginalised communities as part of its social responsibility activities. This function is undertaken as one of the secondary roles under Military Aid to Civil Communities.
Community assistance is provided to needy communities through a continuous defence community assistance programme across the country. The programme provides assistance in the form of construction of public utilities such as clinics, schools, bridges and others.
The ZDF contribution in community assistance projects is provision of skilled manpower while the respective beneficiary communities supply building materials and labour.
It should be, however, noted that the Community Assistance Programme is a ZDF public relations community responsibility undertaking designed to promote goodwill with their publics.
Q: Is the ZDF taking adequate training measures to ensure that its members are fit for the role?
A: The ZDF spares no effort in ensuring that its members are fit for the role at all times. We achieve this through training and retraining.
Training is the major pre-occupation of the ZDF in peacetime as we continuously prepare for war. Prioritising training is necessary for maintenance of a high state of combat readiness in the Defence Forces. Besides progressive military training of individual and collective skills provided of our members, in our local training establishments, we also take up several military courses offered by regional and international friendly defence forces.
We have also embraced academic training in our major military training institutions through affiliation to local universities such as the UZ, MSU, and CUT.
Academic training has in a big way helped broaden and deepen the knowledge base and competences of our officers and men. The ZDF training is fashioned to produce members who are able to adapt to any operational environment.
It is pitched at appropriate levels that ensure members achieve rich understanding of various tools of warfare.
Q: What is the ZDF doing to alleviate the welfare plight of its members under the difficult economic environment?
a. Welfare: Our expectation is that as the country’s economy environment improves, resources to improve the welfare of our members will be increased to better their conditions of service.
At the moment, service transport provision has since improved although there is still need for the organisation to re-equip in order to meet the operational demands of the ever-changing military environment and demands of modern warfare.
b. Pay: Recently, the ZDF, together with other public servants, received a special allowance which has significantly improved income levels of its members. This has helped improve members’ morale.
c. Medical: The ZDF is doing its best, under the circumstances, to continue to provide free medical treatment to their members and together with their dependents in line with Defence Conditions of Service.
External specialist medical treatment for complicated ailments that cannot be treated locally due either to non-availability of specialists or specialist facilities is also provided.
d. Zimbabwe Defence Forces Benefit Fund: Through the ZDF BF, a fund meant to assist members obtain residential stands in urban areas, the ZDF has so far assisted a significant number of its members who are now proud owners of their houses in most cities throughout the country. Furthermore, additional land is being acquired to satisfy the huge demand of members’ residential accommodation.
e. Project Sustain: In an effort to improve the welfare of its members, the ZDF has embarked on a programme to improve food provision for its members through a programme dubbed Project Sustain. Project Sustain is a programme designed to produce cereals, vegetables and livestock in line with the country’s ecological regions. The project has gone a long way to augment the provision of rations to ZDF members. Surplus produce is sold to the local market.
Q: Commander Sir, what is your vision for the ZDF?
A: Going forward, l envision a well-equipped, compact, motivated, efficient and hard-hitting ZDF that is second to none.
To achieve this, I am prioritising re-equipping and effective continuous training for all ZDF officers and men. Efforts will be progressively made to address hygiene factors that might militate against the success of this important ZDF’s vision.
I want to assure the people of Zimbabwe that their country is safe and secure as the ZDF remains ready to fulfil its constitutional mandate of defence of the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests and also contribute to international peace and security.
I thank you.