Zim Army the best in Africa: Matinyarare
12 September 2021
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Zim army in training

By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare | The Zimbabwe National Army, affectionately known as the ZNA, is the most successful, effective, battle-hardened military on the continent because of the shear number of successful military campaigns they have conducted in hot spots that no other African nation wants to go.

More important are the outcomes of their military campaigns that have seen them save civilian lives, bring peace and stability to hopeless trouble hotspots, on a continent where most African nations are so strategically inept that they are protected by foreign western armies.

This article seeks to tell the story of this formidable army of brave men and women who are respected by even their western foes because they have done more than any other African country, to earn Africa respect and pride through self defense.

Even though the Zimbabwean army’s roots can be traced back to the two liberation armies of ZIPRA and ZANLA, which fought and defeated one of the most powerful colonial armies in Africa and her allies who included: 15000 mercenaries from apartheid South Africa, US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, Israel and Reza Shah’s Iran, all hellbent on preserving white supremacy in Africa. Today, I will only focus on the army forged out of the fire of the liberation struggle and independence.

  1. As soon as Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, the country faced immediate attacks by a joint alliance of apartheid South Africa soldiers, former Rhodesian soldiers, disgruntled liberation fighters and their western backers. In retaliation, just three years into independence, the fifth brigade of the ZNA was deployed in Operation Chinyavada (Operation Scorpion bites back or what some call Gukurahundi) against this rag-tag western sponsored coalition which was crossing into Zimbabwe from South Africa and Botswana, terrorizing civilians in Matebeleland, in an effort to spark a tribal war in that region.

The thinking behind the cross-boarder raids was to inflame passions and ignite a civil war that would deny ANC and PAC military wings, training bases or passage to launch raids on South Africa from Zimbabwe. But with mounting casualties on the rebel side, in 1987 a ceasefire was agree and a unity government of ZAPU and ZANU PF was born. Meanwhile, throughout Operation Chinyavada, MK and AZAPO militia would occasionally launch retaliatory cross-boarder bombings on Messina in South Africa, from safe zones established in Zimbabwe. This solicited bitter protests from the British government about Mugabe’s support for Azanian liberation forces, yet the same British never complained about apartheid SA sponsored raids on Zimbabwe.

  1. In the east of the country, the CIA and apartheid government had also been funding RENAMO bandits and apartheid commandos to sabotage Zimbabwe’s fuel pipeline; Beira, Nyamapanda and Chicaulacaula road and rail corridors in Mozambique. So, in 1982 (two years after independence), the ZNA was deployed to repel this sabotage of Zimbabwean routes to port. On getting to Mozambique, Zimbabwe focused its troops on strictly the routes and pipeline, however, the Mozambican army was losing to RENAMO, putting the whole country at risk.

Consequently, the ZNA was forced to take a more offensive posture against the rebels, to secure joint security interests. Thus, in August 1995, the ZNA launched a daring raid on RENAMOs well fortified Gorongoza headquarters, in the battle of Casa Banana. In four hours, Zimbabwean paratroopers had taken the 15000 man base, killed and captured thousands of rebels and a bulk of their weapons.

RENAMO immediately retreated north into Zambezia, Tete and Malawi (Malawi was being used by the CIA to supply RENAMO) out of reach of the Zimbabweans. In turn, the ZNA went back to protecting the corridor, pipeline and Beira. However, it didn’t take long, for the rebels to regroup in northern Mozambique and begin to route demoralized Mozambican troops, to a point where Mozambique was on the verge of being divided in two. Once again, the ZNA was called upon and in 1987, they hit RENAMO’s new headquarters in Mutarara, killing and capturing many rebels and vast amounts of heavy weapons.

This last battle, reduced RENAMO into a mere gang or raiders, less than the once formidable army they were at the beginning. With this devastating blow, the SADF losing in Angola; apartheid South Africa was forced to negotiate, surrender, retreat from Angola, give up Namibia and abandon RENAMO. This was followed in short order, by negotiations with the ANC to prevent the inevitable SADC, Cuban allied counter on South African soil.

  1. After the end of the Mozambican war, in 1993, Zimbabwe joined a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The ZNA was tasked with clearing arms from Bakara Arms Market in Mogadishu, to stop the movement of weapons, end terror attacks on civilians, pave way for the Red Cross to move in, reestablish normalcy in the area and bring stability to Somalia. This they did with distinction and in addition to this they secured Mogadishu airport, which prevented the annihilation of a retreating US marine division after Blackhawk Down.
  2. September of 1998, saw the deployment of 10 000 ZNA soldiers into Africa’s World War in Congo. Here, they prevented western sponsored Rwandan and Ugandan rebels and soldiers from overthrowing Kabila, installing their own puppet and having the UN divide Congo into five separate states for Kagame and Museveni to establish their tribalist Hima Tutsi Mpororo Empire, in which Tutsis would rule over the bantus of the Great Lakes.

The ZNA would drive the rebels and soldiers of Rwanda and Uganda, out of Kinshasa, back into the eastern territories boardering Rwanda. On failing their objective, the rebels and their governments were left with no choice but to sign the Sun City Accord, which left Kabila in power and Congo in one piece. After the accord, some Zimbabwean troops would stay to protect Joseph Kabila after his father’s death, while a number of displaced Hutu refugees, fearing reprisals from Kagame, were given asylum in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government is currently considering giving these Rwandans citizenship in Zimbabwe as they do not want to return to face Kagame’s tyranny.

The west were livid with this outcome that stopped Congo from falling into the control of their golden boys Kagame and Museveni. In retaliation for this and Zimbabwe taking back land from former colonizers, the US, EU, UK, Canada and Australia imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

  1. In 2000, while the ZNA was still fighting in Congo, 2000 of its elite soldiers were airlifted from the DRC into Angola, where they assisted the Angolan army to push back Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, to the eastern boarder of Angola after Executive Outcomes (SA mercenaries) had failed to dislodge them. In this operation, ZNA special forces were tasked with finding and capturing Savimbi, and in 2002, they successfully killed him in a battle in Moxico, bringing an end to Angola’s 40yr civil war.

The ZNA had killed a long time ally of the CIA, apartheid military establishment, Anglo America’s Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert and that’s why media owned by Rupert (eNCA) and papers owned by Anglo (Maverick, The Star, Business Times etc) have a vendetta against Zimbabwe and its army.

  1. Shortly after, the ZNA found itself in another UN mission, protecting civilians in Sudan and Eritrea from ethnic cleansing and war respectively. These are operations which in part led to the creation of South Sudan and a ceasefire in Eritrea.
  2. Another UN mission to protect civilians from warlords in Southern Chad would follow, and during this mission, the US government suddenly pressured the UN to cancel the mission. ZNA soldiers and their commanders refused to leave the area of operation because they were convinced that civilians were in danger of annihilation if they left before a settlement. With this refusal, US Africa Command, on behalf of the UN, evacuated other peacekeepers and then cut all air, road, food, ammunition and financial support.

For months this small contingent of ZNA soldiers and special forces held on, defending civilians, while running the risk of being outflanked and overrun by the enemy who had numbers. Albeit, their adventurism was supported by ammunition and food columns that were sent by former-enemy-come-ally, Yoweri Museveni, until the situation was stabilized.

  1. In 2004, Zimbabwe’s military intelligence intercepted and arrested a group of South African mercenaries led by British Mark Thatcher and Michael Mann. They were on their way to overthrow the Equatorial Guinea President and rumors have it that Mark Thatcher himself was also on the plane, but he was saved from jail by negotiations between Mugabe and his mother Margaret Thatcher, for his release. The story goes that the promise of badly needed supplies of fuel to Zimbabwe, eventually secured his release.
  2. Since then, Zimbabwe is rumored to be maintaining military presence in Equatorial Guinea, to defend that nation from future attacks. In 2015, we saw Zimbabwe’s counter terrorism unit being deployed to ensure the safety of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
  3. Due to this illustrious performance by the ZNA, in 2020, Donald Trump asked for Zimbabwe to take lead on the mission to deal with Amsar Al Sunnah rebels of Mozambique, but the Zimbabwean government asked for the US to remove sanctions first, before the shield of Africa could participate.

No other third world army anywhere else in the world, has had such an impact on their continent, protecting nations and civilians from tyranny and imperialism. And it is because of this counter hegemony against western hegemony, that the western world demonized Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe to put them under illegal sanctions.

It’s a pity that the story of the Zimbabwe National Army has not been told to the world in the past 41yrs, to make the world understand how this brave army, engenders the very virtues of soldiering: courage, self sacrifice, defense of the weak and love for humanity.

I urge the Zimbabwean government to stop betraying future generations of Africa, as they MUST invest resources into documenting, filming and immortalizing this legacy bequeathed to all of us by Africa’s guardians……..the ZNA.

I fight sanctions and tell the story of the ZNA from root tops, to protect this worthy contribution by our brave men and women. Tinokutendai!!!!!

By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare.