Celebrating the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)


Celebrating the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) are highly trained and ready to respond at a moment’s notice to natural or human-made disasters anywhere in the country or the world. Yet many people’s knowledge about ZDF is limited to what they have acquired from movies, books, news reports and documentaries which are usually produced and directed by individuals with limited knowledge of how the army operates, or at times narratives by politically exposed persons aiming to service a much broader political agenda. Few outside the military understand the culture, the values, or the people who make up the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces came into being after the integration of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the former Rhodesian security forces. The process leading to the formation of the ZDF was difficult, calling for patience, tolerance and determination by everyone involved. The new government of Zimbabwe being aware that it would take time to dispel the culture of distrust and suspicion which had developed over the years of the armed liberation struggle, declared a policy of national reconciliation. This policy created a political platform for the forging of a single national Defence force from three different armies.

The Defence forces of Zimbabwe consist of an army (ZNA), an air force (AFZ) and any other services that may be established under an act of parliament. According to the constitution of Zimbabwe (2013), any democratically elected president shall be the commander in chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. As it stands, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is the substantive commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. The most senior commander in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces after the commander in chief, is General Philip Valerio Sibanda who serves as ‘commander ZDF’. As for the rank and file of the Zimbabwe Defence forces, the constitution of Zimbabwe provides for an act of parliament to guide the organisation, structure, management, regulation, discipline and promotion and demotion of officers and other members (GoZ, 2013).

The primary function of the Zimbabwe Defence forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces like every other army in the world, is obliged to respect fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and is expected to be non-partisan (Chuter & Gaub, 2016). Some of the founding values of the Zimbabwe Defence forces include patriotism, professionalism, nationalism and subordination to civilian authority as established by the country’s constitution. It is particularly these principles which have guided the activities of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and have under pinned its contribution towards the achievement of political stability in Zimbabwe. The achievement of political stability has also made it possible for the country to contribute towards the promotion of peace and security within the wider southern African region (Mathema, 2017).

In conclusion, the military in Zimbabwe and in other developing areas of the world has a variety of roles. Beyond the Defence of the nation, its primary role is to move the nation towards development. Over the years, the Zimbabwe Defence forces has moved from being a reactionary institution to a modernizing institution (Charamba, 2021). The ZDF has subsequently situated its role within the attempt to achieve development and modernization under the control of a civilian government.



Charamba, G., 2021. When Zimbabwe army deploys, you may never know. Harare: The Zimbabwe Mail.

Chuter, D. & Gaub, F., 2016. Understanding African armies, Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies.

GoZ, 2013. Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20). Harare: Government of Zimbabwe.

Mathema, C., 2017. I defend the Zimbabwe Defence and Security forces. Bulawayo: Tepp Marketing.

ZNA, 2021. Zimbabwe National Army. [Online] Available at: zna.gov.zw [Accessed 20 July 2021].

The Development Team

Principal Investigator:          T.T. Ncube

Content Writer:                     T.T. Ncube

Content Reviewer:               L. Dweba

Editor:                                    H. Shumba

Article Coordinator:              D. Fraser

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