Zimbabwe - Military Doctrine

The National Defence Policy of the Republic of Zimbabwe derives its legitimacy from the national Constitution of the country. This encapsulates the national purpose, values, national interests and priorities from which policies and programmes are then worked out, eventually leading to the enunciation of the National Security Strategy.

The constitutionally defined roles of the defence forces are:

  • To defend Zimbabwe's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests.
  • To participate in the creation of common regional security architecture.
  • To contribute to the maintenance of international peace and stability.
  • To provide military assistance to civil authority in times of need.

The Zimbabwean military, like that of any democratic country, is one of the elements identifying national values and security interests and as such, must complement, and not conflict with political, economic, social, demographic and informational elements of national power.

Zimbabwe's policy formulation structures are similar to those of any other democracy, that is the security and defence policies of any state are rooted in perceptions of its interests and how best they may be protected and promoted. The supreme national policy formulating body is the National Security Council, responsible for pronouncing the National Security Policy. It is chaired by the President, and is basically composed of the entire Cabinet.

Specific to Defence Policy formulation, below the National Security Council, is the Defence Council, which is chaired by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, State Security, Defence, Home Affairs and Finance constitute the Council. The Service Chiefs and Director General in the President's Department are ex-officio members. Its primary function is to generate and pronounce National Defence Policy.

Below the Defence Council is the Defence Committee, chaired by the Minister of Defence. It is composed of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, Commander Defence Forces, Commander Zimbabwe National Army and Commander Air Force of Zimbabwe. The Committee can also incorporate representatives of other Security Ministries.

There are six Defence Staff Sub­committees below the Defence Committee. These deal with Defence Policy, Operations, Programming and Planning, Manpower, Logistics, Acquisition and Equipment Approval. Policy recommendations and implementation reports flow upwards from the Defence Staff Sub­ committees, while policy directives flow downwards from the National Defence Council. The formulation of a state's defence and security policies depend on its geo-strategic situation and the nature of the state itself especially its political and economic structures. It is also biased on the nature and spread of the state's interests and the current and potential challenges it perceives to those interests. The nature of defence is the military contribution to national security and is a major element of a government's wider security policy. Defence policy specifies the structure and capabilities of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and guides the contribution they make to the achievement of the country's defence and security goals.

Geographically, Zimbabwe's Defence Policy is cast in a concentric circles paradigm. In the central circle lies Zimbabwe itself. Its immediate neighbours, namely Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa occupy the second circle. In the third circle is the thirteen other member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The rest of the countries in the African Union (AU) occupies the fourth circle. Finally, the rest of the world occupies the last circle. This geographical delineation however, is not always mutually exclusive. It sometimes becomes blurred depending on the intensity and nature of relations that Zimbabwe may maintain with its cooperating partners from other parts of the world, including some outside Africa.

Domestically, the Policy constitutes an integral part of the political superstructure. It rests upon the socio-economic foundations of the society that it is meant to safeguard, the structures and institutions of the society, which are interwoven in a network of systems and sub-systems of social, cultural, economic, political, judicial, scientific, technological and military strategic relationships.

In the 1980s the new Zimbabwean government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe contended with a variety of security problems that, directly or indirectly, had resulted from the seven-year civil war that preceded independence. The war, which had claimed 30,000 lives, also left 150,000 combatants who had served in one of the armed political factions or armies and a like number of unaccounted firearms. With the coming of independence, political and ethnic differences and the struggle for primacy between Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and his rival Joshua Nkomo's Patriotic Front-Zimbabwe African People's Union were reemerging after having been overshadowed by the exigencies of war.

The primary mission of the defense force was to defend Zimbabwe against outside enemies and, like its Rhodesian antecedent, to back up the national police in the maintenance of internal security. But in actuality the main task of the Zimbabwe Defence Force was the effort to integrate its component parts. Success in this endeavor would support national unity; failure could break it.

Tensions between black and white Zimbabweans persisted at independence: many Europeans resented the loss of their political power, and many Africans resented the fact that the economy, the civil service, and the military remained largely under the control of the white minority. Neighboring South Africa, the ideologically hostile last stronghold of white minority rvle on the ontinent, possessed considerable economic and military power that posed a potential threat to the Mugabe government.

Mugabe pursued a realistic policy of economic cooperation and verbal confrontation with South Africa while refusing to allow anti- Pretoria guerrillas to operate from his own country. Despite the discovery of several agents working for South Africa and suspicion that Pretoria was behind several acts of sabotage, relations between the two countries remained generally correct. Mugabe used the security forces both as a means to entorce his security policy and as an object of social reform.

The government's security concerns were primarily local in scope, whereas during the civil war period external factors significantly shaped the security perceptions of the African nationalist leaders and the Rhodesian government. The Soviet Union, its East European allies, and China had supplied and supported the nationalist guerrillas; the United Nations (UN) had imposed trade sanctions against Rhodesia; South Africa had supported the Smith government; and the precedent of Cuban military intervention in nearby Angola had threatened wider internationalization of the conflict. As the risk of increased international involvement in southern Africa receded after the 1960 election, independent Zimbabwe's external security concerns focused mainly on South Africa, its powerful, white-ruled neighbor.

Zimbabwe's three black-ruled neighbors - Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana - possessed only modest economic and military structures am. osed no measurable threat. Having supported the guerrillas to varying degrees in the civil war, they maintained basically friendly relations with Harare. South Africa, however, was a potentially hostile state, having an economy over fifteen times the size of Zimbabwe's and larger, better trained, more modem armed forces.

With the possible exception of the South African National Defense Force, no military establishment in sub-Saharan Africa could conduct the kind of multi-division, joint force power projection that is characteristic of the larger Western nations. Yet it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which that capability would be necessary. Clearly, there are viable military roles that African militaries do play well. Zimbabwe fielded impressively sophisticated forces that demonstrated an ability to perform well in conventional military operations.

The 1980 Constitution gave the prime minister significant powers ever the armed forces. He provides binding advice to the country's largely ceremonial president regarding the appointment of commanders of the army, the air force, and any other branches of the armed forces that might be formed. The prime minister or a minister of his choice also has constitutional authority to give "general directions of policy" to a commander of a service who "shall comply with such directions or cause them to be complied with." if he is dissatisfied with the performance of a commander of one of the services, the prime minister can advise the president to dismiss the incumbent, providing the cabinet is consulted and parliament is informed.

Mugabe's constitutional power over the armed forces as prime minister was reinforced by his concurrent position as defense minister, a portfolio he retained for himself from the outset. The Joint Operations Command (JOC) continues to meet and support Mugabe; the NSC met only once. The JOC consists of the service chiefs, Mnangagwa as Minister of Defense, and reportedly Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono. A legacy of the Rhodesian government, it is responsible for security and has played a policy role. In 2008 it coordinated election violence and intimidation.

The new 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe gave prominence to the fact that all institutions and agencies of the state and government are accountable to Parliament. Even the Presidency as a state institution is not exempt from accountability to Parliament. For instance, s.111 states that '… The President has power to declare war and make peace, and must advise the Senate and the National Assembly within seven sitting days after exercising such power. The Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least two-thirds of the total membership of Parliament, may resolve that a declaration of war should be revoked'.

Where such a joint resolution has been made, the President is obliged to make all practical steps to disengage from the war. s.214 further add that ' when the Defence forces are deployed in Zimbabwe for the maintenance of order…the President must cause Parliament to be informed, promptly and in appropriate detail, of the reasons of their deployment…' The foregoing provisions are a gradual modification of the repealed constitution which did not empower parliament to have any say in the declaration of war or the deployment of defence forces in Zimbabwe for the maintenance of order. s.31 (H)(d)of the former constitution provided that, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the President shall have the power to '…to declare war and to make peace'. No explicit role was given to Parliament.

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