By Nelson Chamisa
The Defence forces day, is a day set aside to honour the men and women who have dedicated themselves to defend our nation.
The defence forces form the backbone of any nation and ours is no exception.
Indeed, our national constitution (through Sections 211 and 212) recognises the role and significance of the defence forces in our body politic, in safeguarding our territorial integrity.
Indeed, we salute and duly recognize the unstinting and committed service that our patriotic soldiers continue to render to their beloved country, even under these extremely difficult circumstances.
As a nation, we fought a just war of liberation, and the dedication, sacrifice and patriotism of the sons and daughters of this land deserves our veneration and utmost respect.
We are thankful to the men and women in uniform for the sacrifices and service to the nation in fulfilling their constitutional mandate and national duty.
Over the years, our defence forces have earned accolades for the work they have performed on international duty, in peace-keeping missions across the world.
We honour them for raising the national flag.
They have also done fantastic community work in our rural areas, and their recent efforts in the wake of Cyclone Idai deserve special mention.
This indeed is the kind of work that endears the defence forces to the public.
Whilst our constitution recognises the key role of the defence forces, it also lays down the foundation for a smooth relationship with other branches of our body politic, setting the boundaries of what they can or cannot do.
This is why we continue to encourage our defence forces to uphold the values of professionalism, respect, forbearance and non-partisanship.
We know that the majority of our defence forces are bound and are faithful to their oaths as defenders of the nation.
The few who stray beyond the lines of professionalism should never be allowed to taint the entire institution.
This taint can be cleansed by holding to account those who have strayed away from their constitutional prescriptions.
Regrettably, we have lost innocent lives in the past year at the hands of such elements.
We echo public and international sentiment of accountability for these losses to prevent a culture of impunity and immunity.
Considering the recent killings of civilians on the 1st of August 2018 and around the 15th of January, which has eroded the confidence of our people, I would like to encourage our Defence Forces to swiftly address concerns about impartiality on partisan politics, respect for human rights and subordination to civilian authority as enshrined under our constitution.
To this end, I am quite encouraged by the comments made by the National Army Commander, Lieutenant General Edzai Absolom Chanyuka Chimonyo, and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Philip Valerio Sibanda.
Both Generals have recently and passionately spoken about the need for a professional, disciplined and non-partisan Defence Force which protects Zimbabwe, its citizens, its national security, its interests, its territorial integrity and more importantly, to uphold the Constitution of the land.
We remember with a profound sense of humility the songs of liberation such as Nzira dzemasoja and Tinoda Zimbabwe neupfumi hwayo hwese, great motivational anthems that also constitute a code of conduct for our defence forces.
The core message is: treat the people with respect.
When our constitution behoves the defences forces to respect human rights and freedoms, it is merely restating these organic commandments with deep-seated roots.
Therefore, as we celebrate and honour the defence forces, we call upon our men and women to uphold, defend and respect the core values that helped our forebears to prosecute the liberation struggle together with and not against the people.
They said they were fish and the people were the water. It was true then and it is true today and always.
We know our men and women are not spared by the economic and social challenges that we are facing as a nation.
They are our brothers, our sisters, fathers and mothers to some and uncles and aunties to others.
They are our brothers and sisters in law to all of us.
In short, they are people like us, facing the same darkness when electricity is down, the same anxiety when the new school term begins and there is no money for school fees.
They are, like many of us, breadwinners without the bread; wage earners with eroding wages.
When we express ourselves, we are also doing it on their behalf; on behalf of and with their families, friends and neighbours, singing songs of freedom and prosperity that they cannot sing on account of their job.
Poverty, like rain falls upon every roof. However poverty is not a natural phenomenon.
Since it is made by humankind, it can be overcome by humankind too, through working together in unison.
Going forward, in a truly New Zimbabwe, under our new leadership, we envisage a defence forces that is built on a foundation of meritocracy, patriotism and professionalism, where service, merit and excellence take precedence.
We aspire for a new Zimbabwe is which there is mutual respect between our defence forces and members of the public.
In our New Zimbabwe, the military forces will be well-equipped, well-fed and well-remunerated.
The relationship between the military and politicians will be characterised by professionalism, progressiveness and non-partisanship, allowing military men and women to flourish and defend the nation with pride.
Politics will guide the gun.The ballot will manage the bullet.
In a New Zimbabwe, our military will not be owned or appropriated by any political party.
The army is above partisan politics.Our military will be nonpartisan.
Our national army is people’s force.
We salute men and women in uniform.
You are the pride of the nation. God bless our men and women in uniform.
Let me assure you all about my unwavering support for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and my vision for a great, peaceful and prosperous country for all who live in it.
Change that delivers!
Thank you and God Bless You
Adv Nelson Chamisa is president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)