PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday defended security forces’ involvement in joint commercial business ventures with local and foreign partners, saying the move was meant to boost the country’s country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Addressing security forces during commemorations to mark the 34th Defence Forces Day at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Mugabe said government fully supported the business ventures initiated by members of the security sector.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has of late been investing in agriculture, mining and education mainly in partnership with Chinese companies.
“Operation Maguta, a project which started in 2000, has since been expanded to greater levels, producing substantial amounts of maize, and wheat in a joint venture project with the Chinese at Hunyani Estate in Chinhoyi,” Mugabe said.
He added: “The Zimbabwe Defence Forces is contributing to the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation through this and several other commercial projects that will, in the medium to long term, contribute significantly to the country’s GDP.”
The military has a significant stake in the Marange diamond fields.
Civil society groups and the opposition have often raised concern over the involvement of the ZDF in diamond mining activities, saying they were being used as conduits for looting and smuggling of mineral proceeds.
Meanwhile, Mugabe also said Zimbabwe’s defence forces continues to play a leading role in co-ordinating regional security matters.
“In June 2014, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces successfully co-hosted a riverine exercise codenamed Exercise Nyami-Nyami with Botswana and Zambia defence forces. The aim of the exercise was to test the inter-operability of regional Special Forces in water bodies like Lake Kariba,” he said.
Zimbabwe will next year participate in two other regional exercises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho.
Exercise Amani Africa 11 will bring together forces from five African regions and Zimbabwe Defence Forces will provide the Force Commander for the exercise.”