ZIMBABWE Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Guvheya Nyikadzino Dominic Chiwenga yesterday officially handed over the reins to General Philip Valerio Sibanda, marking an end to his 44-year illustrious military career.
The colourful hand-over and take-over grand parade was held at Commando Regiment and was witnessed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Gen Chiwenga retired this week after spending 44 years as a soldier, 13 of which he was ZDF Commander.
The ZDF is composed of the Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Gen Chiwenga had taken over from late national hero General Vitalis Musungwa Gava Zvinavashe, who retired in 2003. Before handing over the ZDF colours and symbol of command, Gen Chiwenga inspected a guard of honour, his last in military uniform.
President Mnangagwa thanked Gen Chiwenga for showing consistency and steadfastness during his tenure.
“I, therefore, urge you to maintain the same loyalty, robustness and dedication to duty as you move to your next assignment which is quite prominent.”
He said Gen Sibanda’s promotion was based on distinction and merit.
“You have demonstrated visionary leadership, when you were Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army,” President Mnangagwa said.
“As you assume a higher and more challenging assignment, I hope and trust that you will continue to take a leading role in developing the Zimbabwe Defence Forces into a professional, competent, hard hitting and highly disciplined force.”
President Mnangagwa said the Defence Forces should continue working closely with Government Ministries to ensure economic development.
“Our Defence Forces are renowned and respected nationally, regionally and internationally for their professional conduct of duties,” he said.
“This was clearly demonstrated by the way Operation Restore Legacy was clinically executed, right from the start to finish. I want to assure you that Government is fully committed to the task of ensuring that your requirements and those of all citizens are provided for as we continue to review your conditions of service.”
In his farewell speech, Gen Chiwenga reminisced the journey he travelled with his “military family” since he joined the army at the age of 17. He chronicled how he left school in 1973 to join the liberation struggle and how President Mnangagwa superintended over the integration over Zanla and Zipra armies to form the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in 1980.
Gen Chiwenga said during his tenure as ZDF Commander, the main focus was on retraining and re-equipping the force following intermittent years of successful military campaigns.
The campaigns, he said, were held under the auspices of Sadc, African Union and United Nations.
“As I retire today, I am proud to have been associated with such a professional, battle tested and efficient force that has become the envy of many, friendly and foe, the world over,” Gen Chiwenga said.
“I implore upon you to jealously guard this good reputation that we have earned over the years.”
He said in the last 13 years, the ZDF had registered numerous achievements despite limited budgetary allocations.
These include a small hard hitting force, commonly referred to as Combat Group Concept, introduction of an inspectorate department and the Defence Economic Development Department, establishment of the Zimbabwe National Defence University and the recent Operation Restore Legacy among others.
Gen Chiwenga said his command was made easier because of the unity among officers.
“As I retire together with other Generals, I am aware though that some among us might be full of emotions due to this separation, over which I implore you all to reserve your energies in ensuring that you continue to give maximum support to the incoming command element,” Gen Chiwenga said.
He said the incoming Commander Gen Sibanda was an able freedom fighter and professional soldier.
Gen Sibanda said: “Many challenges confronted us during this period and General Chiwenga was always up to the task seeking solutions to these challenges.
“We overcame most of these because we worked as a team. Team work is our secret to success.”
He thanked President Mnangagwa for trusting him and pledged to do his best in executing his mandate.
The ceremony was witnessed by service chiefs, Government Ministers and senior officials. The Chronicle