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Zimbabwe Defence Forces

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Title: Zimbabwe Defence Forces  
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Subject: Zimbabwe, Ministry of Defence (Zimbabwe), Military of Zimbabwe, Prostitution in Zimbabwe, Military of the Comoros
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Zimbabwe Defence Forces

Zimbabwe Defence Forces
Flag of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces
Current form 1980
Service branches Zimbabwe National Army
Air Force of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Republic Police
Headquarters Harare
President Robert Mugabe
Chief of staff General Constantine Chiwenga
Conscription 18-24 years of age
Active personnel 29,000 military, 21,800 paramilitary[1] (ranked 83rd)
Budget US$60 million (2006)
Percent of GDP 3.8% (2006)
Foreign suppliers  Brazil[2]
 Czech Republic[3]
 United Kingdom[2]
Related articles
History Military history of Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) are composed of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ). As a landlocked country, Zimbabwe has no navy. The most senior commander of the ZDF is General Constantine Chiwenga.

Ministry of Defence

In July 1994 the combined Zimbabwe Defence Forces Headquarters was created.


The Zimbabwe armed forces had an estimated strength of 29,000 in 2007. The ZNA had an estimated 25,000 personnel. The air force had about 4,000 men assigned.[1]


Zimbabwe maintains a strong paramilitary force. In 2007 the IISS estimated that the Zimbabwe Republic Police had 19,500 personnel, including an Air Wing, and that there was an additional 2,300 personnel in the Police Support Unit.[1] Separately Paramilitary Police have been reported.


At the time of independence, the then Prime Minister Air Force of Zimbabwe.

Mozambique Civil War

The Mozambique civil war occurred between the FRELIMO Government and RENAMO, a rebel group funded by Rhodesian intelligence and the then apartheid South African government to destabilize Mozambique and newly independent Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces got involved to protect Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare and the strategic railway line to Mozambique's port city of Beira which were being attacked by RENAMO. This was also seen as assistance to the FRELIMO government which had assisted Zimbabwe liberation fighters based in Mozambique during the Second Zimbabwean revolutionary war that led to Zimbabwe's independence. Some RENAMO elements had crossed from Mozambique into Zimbabwe several times, robbing shops along the border and had burned down a timber factory. After several meetings with Mozambican officials it was agreed that the ZDF could conduct "hot persuits" into Mozambique of any RENAMO elements that may have raided Zimbabwe. On this pretext the ZDF begun planning follow-up operations which would take them deep into Mozambique culminating in occupation of former RENAMO bases at Gorongosa. The decision to send Zimbabwean troops to help restore law and order in Mozambique was partly influenced by Zimbabwe's close relationship with the Mozambican government which dates back to FRELIMO's assistance during Zimbabwe's war of liberation. There was also the underlying fact that FRELIMO and ZANU shared a common Marxist ideology of scientific socialism. The South Africa-backed RENAMO professed to be an anti-communist movement, as did Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement, which was fighting against the Marxist MPLA government of Angola. There was thus an ideological alliance of the Maputo - Harare - Luanda axis, with support for these governments from the Soviet Union. The fact that the United States of America was providing covert and overt support to opposition movements such as UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique reflected the extension of the Cold War to Southern Africa.

Operation Lemon The first of the ZDF follow-up operations was launched from Katiyo and Aberdeen in northern Manicaland, code-named Operation "Lemon". The five day operation lasted from the 5th to 9th of December 1984. It comprised elements of 3 Brigade, the Parachute Group, Special Air Service (SAS), and was supported by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ). Bad weather conditions and the difficult mountainous terrain reduced the use of aircraft, and all the trooping had to be done by helicopters. The movement of troops on the ground was also difficult. Four contacts were made and two RENAMO bases were destroyed. While successful in capturing the bases themselves, most RENAMO elements in the bases managed to escape and only eight were captured.The ZDF considered this operation as a major failure and the code word Lemon was corrupted to mean any failure in all subsequent operations. It was further established that there were no other permanent bases in the area, only some advance posts and temporary bases used by RENAMO as launching pads for food raids into Zimbabwe. The raid was important in establishing the location of the main RENAMO base at Messinse, Chito, Nyazonia, Buetoni, Gorongosa Central Base and Casa Banana.

Casa Banana Raid Intelligence sources had indicated that Cassa Banana, RENAMO's national headquarters had a strength of 400 elements. However, the organisation maintained a string of other smaller bases along the Gorongosa Mountains, which were considered as part of the main base. This raised the total estimated strength in the area to 1 000 elements. During the night of 27 August 1985, three Zimbabwe infantry battalions were established in their Form Up Points (FUP) with the help of the SAS and Commando elements. At Chimoio a Fireforce was being given final briefing, and five AFZ planes were given orders for a first light take-off for Gorongosa on the morning of 28 August. The Fireforce was divided into three sections each with one helicopter gunship, two transport helicopters and two transport aircraft with paratroopers. Each Fireforce section was detailed to attack specific suspected RENAMO positions around the Gorongossa Mountains. It was during this three pronged attack that one helicopter observed activity on the ground at the location that had been given at the briefing as Cassa Banana. Fighter jets from Thornhill, which were already in the air, begun the raid on Cassa Banana. It took the whole day to conclude the raid. No official records of caualties on both side was given.


  1. ^ a b c (IISS) (2007). The Military Balance 2007.   Page 299.
  2. ^ a b c "Scramble for the Congo - Anatomy of an Ugly War". ICG Africa. 2000-12-20. Retrieved 2013-06-18. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f [1]
  4. ^ "UK urged to keep force in Zimbabwe". The Independent (London). 16 April 2000. 


  • Central Intelligence Agency [2]

Further reading

  • Abiodun Alao, 'The Metamorphosis of the Unorthodox: The Integration and Development of the Zimbabwe National Army' (chapter in book compiled by Terence Ranger, 'Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War'), 1995
  • Norma J. Kriger, ‘Guerrilla Veterans in Post-war Zimbabwe: Symbolic and Violent Politics,’ 1980-1987, Cambridge UP, 2003

External links

  • Zimbabwe Ministry of Defence
  • Zimbabwe Defence Forces Unofficial Website
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