Zimbabwe has since independence played a critical role in the maintenance of regional peace and stability as evidenced by its intervention in abating a serious civil strife in Mozambique instigated by Renamo bandits.
The country, together with Angola and Namibia, also participated in a regional initiative in the Democratic Republic of Congo in repelling rebel forces threatening to overthrow the legitimate government then led by the late Laurent Desire Kabila. Our Senior Writer Lovemore Ranga Mataire (LRM) recently spoke to Zimbabwe’s Minister of Defence Dr Sydney Sekeramayi (SS) about his views on regional initiatives being undertaken to bring lasting peace in the region.
LRM: SADC is experiencing relative peace and stability compared to other regions in Africa. As Zimbabwe’s Minister of Defence what is the major ingredient to this relative peace and security, which has remained elusive in other regions?
SS:   The legacy of decolonisation largely contributes to the peace and stability that we currently see in the SADC region as liberation movements fought side by side, creating lasting relations and mutual trust.
These liberation movements are now the ruling parties in most of these countries. SADC as opposed to other parts of the continent constructed a regional  peace and security architecture early enough by way of the Frontline States  system/mechanism which collaborated effectively in securing peace for the  sub-continent as well as ensuring that those territories for whom peace  was elusive would realise it.
LRM:  Besides the general peace and tranquility being experienced in the region, there still exists some pockets of disturbances in the region particularly in Mozambique and the DRC. How far is the issue of Renamo insurgency a major concern to Zimbabwe?
SS: True that some pockets of disturbances still exist in the SADC region.  These are largely attributable to the neo-liberal agenda which seeks to  benefit from the natural resources in these countries by fomenting  disturbances and taking advantage of the subsequent insecurity.
The issue of Renamo is a major concern to Zimbabwe as the  potential of any conflict in that country to affect the political-economy of  Zimbabwe is very high.
We therefore remain a very interested party in how the situation evolves to avoid it developing into a full-fledged insurgency.
We are therefore committed to employing all measures necessary to  ensure that Mozambique remains peaceful and we are supportive of efforts  by the people and Government of Mozambique in resolving the dispute.
LRM:  Please comment on the current regional efforts being undertaken to bring peace and stability in the DRC?
SS:   Yes, there are regional efforts currently underway to’ bring peace and  stability in the eastern DRC.
These, however, are being complicated by  external influence from players who tend to benefit from a state of  continued insecurity in the DRC.
These efforts are further complicated by  the political situation obtaining in the DRC’s neighbours.
As such, the  situation in the DRC cannot be resolved in isolation without simultaneously resolving the issue of peace and stability in the DRC’s neighbours whose  conflicts historically tend to spill over into the DRC further complicating any  local measures to deal with the DRC crisis.
At the sub-regional level, SADC is engaging all the stakeholders. Efforts  which are being made by SADC include engaging the International  Committee on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) which has resulted in the  deployment of an Intervention Brigade under the auspices of the United  Nations, which has resulted in relative peace in the eastern DRC.
LRM: SADC has signed various protocols on Security and Defence but most of these protocols have not been fully implemented. What are the challenges confronting regional co-operation in dealing with issues of peace and security?
SS:   Most important protocols on Defence and Security have been ratified and implementation is underway. However, a few of those that might be  outstanding may be due to inadequate funding. As must be appreciated,  the operationalisation of any peace and security protocols requires funding  or financial resources. While the will might be there to see the  operationalisation of most of these protocols, what tends to affect implementation at the end of the day are competing demands for the few  financial resources that are available in each country. The cycles of global financial crises that we have been witnessing in the past two decades had an effect on sub-regional efforts to pursue a regional peace and security  agenda.
LRM:  What is the actual mandate of the SADC Standby Force Brigade? How has the region dealt with issues of funding and in whose authority will be the force under?
SS:  The mandate of the SADC Standby Force is to be the first-line of response to any crisis situation that may develop be it man-made or natural. Its additional or wider mandate is to contribute towards the continental peace and security architecture.
To achieve this mandate, the SADC Standby  Force is to be operationally deployable locally as well as part of continental  security arrangements.
The force, as part of the Africa Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), is under the authority of the AU Peace and Security Commission. Funding of this force is through contributions from member  states except for training programmes where donor funding is also utilised.
LRM: Besides being Minister of Defence, you are also the Zanu-PF Secretary for War Veterans Welfare in the Politburo. What is the state of war veterans association and also their welfare?
SS:  This is intended to create a situation where not only the war veterans feel disenfranchised in the post-independence dispensation, but also the  general population.
One hopes that Zimassest (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable  Socio-Economic Transformation) proceeds as planned so that  we see a quick recovery of the economy as envisioned by His Excellency  the President and Commander in Chief of the Defence Forces, Comrade  Robert Mugabe so that not only the war veterans benefit but all the people  of Zimbabwe.
As a party and government through the Ministry of Welfare Services for  War Veterans, War Collaborators, Ex-Political Detainees and Restrictees,  we remain seized with improving the welfare of all war veterans of our  liberation struggle without which Zimbabwe would not have been a free  people. So much of what we all are as a people is owed to these gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe.
The welfare conditions of the war veterans are far from what we would wish them to be as a result of the economic circumstances that we find ourselves in. Talk of the sanctions and the regime change agenda which inevitably is calculated to create the disaffection that we might be seeing.
LRM:   How can war veterans’ experience, discipline and expertise be harnessed so that they effectively contribute in national initiatives and national unity?
SS: No one understands the value of unity more than the war veterans. This is why they readily collaborated in the fight against colonialism. If cadres  from both Zanla and Zipra were not aware of the value of unity in  waging the liberation struggle, it would have been difficult to prosecute the  war in the manner that they did resulting in the common enemy being  defeated.
In addition, the integration of all the security agencies at  independence is a clear demonstration of the commitment by the war  veterans to unity.
Therefore, I have no doubt that the unity, and discipline  which they have demonstrated over the years is evidence of the sound  political guidance they received during the war of liberation which we  should all embrace to benefit the development agenda for this country.