Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke, has praised the Zimbabwe Defence Force for its assistance to the South African military since the end of apartheid.
Zimbabwe’s state controlled Herald newspaper said Shoke arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday for a five day visit. He met with his counterpart General Constantine Chiwenga at the KGVI Barracks on Tuesday, where he said, “I want to thank you today for the role that your officers have played to help build our air force. We appreciate the role that you have played, the problems we are facing today are the problems that you faced a long time ago.
“We are a new democracy and we have our own teething problems and I think we still have a lot to learn from you. We should not be shy to ask.
“We belong to the region of Southern Africa and we have a responsibility to see that the region succeeds. We wish and pray that we achieve economic recovery because a Zimbabwe that is stable also has a positive effect on us,” Shoke said.
General Chiwenga said interaction between defence forces in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was critical. “As we interact, we need to remain cognisant of the fact that this is not just a platform to compare notes on defence and security issues, but it is also a forum to strengthen relations in view of the emerging common threats to our individual countries and as members of SADC.”
“We should be reminded that our former colonisers will continue to be influenced by the imperial and capitalist motives whose strong desire is to control and own the abundant natural resources that our two countries are endowed with.
“We should therefore jealously guard against recolonisation and exploitation of our God given natural resources,” Chiwenga said.
Referring to Western sanctions, Chiwenga said they had “brought untold suffering to our people who, despite the harsh economic conditions, have remained resilient in their quest to defend and protect their sovereign birth right, which undoubtedly is the land and everything associated with it,” he said.
The ZDF commander also commended various joint peace keeping training courses that have been carried out by Sadc forces.
Shoke also inspected the National Defence College in Harare, which is being built by Chinese company Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company. “This project is quite impressive and people of Zimbabwe are going to benefit much out of this project. We do have a Defence College in South Africa but not of this level,” Shoke said.
Construction began last year and expected to be complete in five years time. Shoke said that since South Africa and Zimbabwe were SADC members, he hoped that South Africa would benefit from the College through cooperation.
South Africa currently chairs the SADC organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. This week the Cabinet approved South Africa’s collective responsibility for policy guidance and oversight of implementation of decisions between SADC summits.