By Professor Matodzi
Harare, August 13, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s aging leader Robert Mugabe on Tuesday heaped high praises on the country’s army and other state security agents, one week after he won a controversial election to extend his grip on power by five more years.
Mugabe, who made his second public appearance since being declared winner of the presidential election by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) a week ago, commended the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) of which he is the Commander-In-Chief for standing by his government during hard times when he faced a strong political challenge from the Movement for Democratic Change.
Speaking at the 33rd celebrations held Tuesday at the National Sports Stadium to mark the establishment of the ZDF, the Zanu PF leader blamed some western governments who imposed targeted sanctions against him and some of his lieutenants over a poor human rights record and a democratic deficiency for seeking to throttle the army’s operations.
“For the past ten years, illegal sanctions have resulted in inadequate budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Defence. Despite all this, the ZDF have remained resolute and consistent in upholding their role of defending the nation. Allow me to thank the ZDF for having been such a reliable pillar of our government during the 33 years and for ensuring peace and tranquility,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe, in office since independence in 1980, has relied on the army and police to thwart public dissent.
The Zanu PF leader also paid tribute to army officers for working tirelessly to clear landmines along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border and praised some non-governmental organisations for partnering with the army.
In a bid to pacify the poorly paid army officers, Mugabe promised that his Zanu PF party which has been in government for the past 33 years will “always try to improve their conditions.”
Mugabe conferred the Grand Officer of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit Medal, a prestigious honour to 1 254 military officers for their service in the Zimbabwe National Army, some of whom participated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Mozambican war.
He labeled Zimbabweans opposed to his government’s company share grab and so-called indigenisation programme as “misguided countrymen”.
“The indigenization programme is not peculiar to Zimbabwe. It has been implemented in other countries….We will pursue this beneficial policy to its successful conclusion,” said Mugabe.