Military Wiki
Zimbabwe National Army
Flag of the Zimbabwe National Army.svg
Flag of the Zimbabwe National Army
Active 1980 - present
Country Zimbabwe
Type Army
Size Active; 30,000 active personnel
Part of Ministry of Defence
Lt Gen Philip Valerio Sibanda
Lt Gen Peter Walls
Lt Gen Solomon Mujuru
Lt Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe

The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) is the land warfare branch of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. The ZNA currently has an active duty strength of 30,000.


The Zimbabwe National Army was formed in 1980 from elements of the Rhodesian Army, integrated to a greater or lesser extent with combatants from the ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrilla movements (the armed wings of, respectively, ZANU and ZAPU.[1]

Following majority rule in April 1980 and the cantonment of the ZANLA and ZIPRA under Operation Agila, British Army trainers (the British Military Advisory and Training Team, BMATT) oversaw the integration of guerrilla fighters into one unified army.[2] A battalion structure was overlaid on the existing Rhodesian Army. For the first year a system was followed where the top-performing candidate became battalion commander. If he or she was from ZANLA, then his or her second-in-command was the top-performing ZIPRA candidate, and vice versa. This ensured a balance between the two movements in the command structure. From early 1981 this system was abandoned in favour of political appointments, and ZANLA/ZANU fighters consequently quickly formed the majority of battalion commanders in the ZNA.

The ZNA was originally formed into four brigades, 1 Brigade, Matabeleland, 2 Brigade, Mashonaland, 3 Brigade, Manicaland, and 4 Brigade, Masavingo.[3] These comprised a total of 29 battalions. The brigade support units were composed almost entirely of specialists of the former Rhodesian Army, while unintegrated battalions of the Rhodesian African Rifles were assigned to the 1st, 3rd and 4th Brigades. A North Korean-trained 5th was formed in 1981 and was used in genocidal operations against dissidence and their sustainers who were mostly of the Ndebele-ethnic group in Matabeleland.[4]

The ZNA is under the command of Lieutenant General Philip Valerio Sibanda, who took over from General Constantine Chiwenga following his elevation to the post of Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces in December 2003.

Past Operations[]


After several hints,[5][6][7] some of which the Zimbabwean Government denied, for the first time the ZDF Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, acknowledged ZNA involvement in the Angolan Civil War.[8]

Democratic Republic of Congo[]

Raids On Gorongosa[]

Some RENAMO elements had crossed from Mozambique into Zimbabwe several times, had robbed some shops along the border and had burned down a timber factory. After several meetings with Mozambican officials it was agreed that the ZDF could pursue into Mozambique any RENAMO elements that might have raided Zimbabwe. This was the basis on which the ZDF started planning follow-up operations which took them deep into Mozambique culminating in occupation of former RENAMO bases at Gorongosa.

Operation Lemon[]

The first of these Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) follow-up operations was launched from Katiyo and Aberdeen in northern Manicaland, code-named Operation Lemon. The operation lasted from the 5–9 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. However, 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. It was also revealed for the first time that the main RENAMO bases were at Messinse, Chito, Nyazonia, Buetoni, Gorongosa Central Base and Casa Banana.

Operation Grape Fruit[]

The report for Operation Lemon was taken seriously by the commanders of the ZDF, and in July 1985 preparations for major offensive operations were started. Rehearsals for a Fireforce operation were carried out at Inkomo Barracks near Harare. Three infantry brigades were mobilised together with the Parachute Group, One Commando Battalion and the AFZ. Men and equipment were moved to Chimoio in Mozambique, with a Forward Replenishment Point (FRP) being established at Grand Reef near Mutare.

Intelligence sources had indicated that RENAMO's main regional base in Manica province was at Muxamba and that Casa Banana was the national stronghold of RENAMO. Both bases had to be attacked and Muxamba was targeted first, being only 70 kilometres south of Chimoio. The most important consideration however, was the hope that activities around Muxamba might divert RENAMO's attention from monitoring too closely the movement of the three heavily armed Zimbabwean infantry battalions marching from Chimoio towards the Gorongosa Mountains.

Muxamba was believed to hold at least 400 RENAMO elements commanded by Major General Mabachi. The attack on Muxamba was launched on the 20th of August 1985 by elements of 3 Brigade, supported by the Parachute Group and the AFZ. The operation went on for four days with minor problems for the ZDF. One helicopter was riddled with small arms fire but managed to return to Chimoio.

Raid on Cassa Banana[]

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.

Although the RENAMO elements captured at Katiyo had given a grid reference for Cassa Banana, further intelligence had cast some doubt as to which of the several RENAMO bases scattered on all sides of the Gorongosa Mountains was the actual headquarters of RENAMO. It was because of this uncertainty that 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 flew overhead Cassa Banana airstrip and the pilot noticed a green pickup truck disappearing into some bushes. It was then that the pilot recognised the place as that given at the briefing as Cassa Banana. The jets from Thornhill, which were already in place overhead a predetermined Initial Point (IP), were then talked on to the target, and the raid on Cassa Banana began.

The aircraft attacked the target, knocking out several Anti-Aircraft gun positions. Two helicopter gunships continued to hit suspected strategic positions and managed to flash out several pockets of resistance. A third helicopter was directing the dropping of the first wave of paratroopers. When the paratroopers had entered the base, the infantry battalions, which were close by, were ordered to move in and occupy strategic positions. The Fireforce then moved on to deal with the several pockets of resistance from the smaller RENAMO bases all along the Gorongosa Mountains. It took the whole day to silence all of these pockets of resistance.

There is no official Zimbabwean record of the number of casualties on the first raid on Cassa Banana. However, considering the amount of effort, the numbers of troops involved on both sides, and the time it took to capture the base, there must have been a lot of deaths and injuries on both sides.[9]

Operation Lifeline-Tete Corridor[]

This corridor is a tarred 263-kilometre road running from Nyamapanda on the Zimbabwean border through the Mozambican city of Tete to Zobue on the Malawi border. After UDI in 1965, this route carried Rhodesian goods to and from Malawi, which had not applied United Nations sanctions against the Smith regime. After the independence of Mozambique in 1975, the bulk of Malawi's trade with South Africa went through Rhodesia by road via Tete. It was only in 1984 that trade via this route declined because of RENAMO attacks.

It was in the wake of these developments that in June 1984 the governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe formed a joint security committee 13. The aim of the committee was to monitor operations on a day-to-day basis and to attempt to remove all security threats along the Tete Corridor. Zimbabwe's First Mechanised Battalion was ordered to move into Mozambique and they established their headquarters in Tete thereby securing the strategic bridge crossing the Zambezi River. In 1985, President Samora Machel of Mozambique formally requested the governments of Tanzania and Zimbabwe to contribute troops for "the restoration of law and order" in Mozambique. This led to the deployment of Tanzanian troops north of the Zambezi river and Zimbabwean troops to the south.

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.


The bulk of the formations are motorized, but several are more specialized.

  • 1 Brigade - Brigadier General Thomas Moyo
  • 2 Brigade - Brigadier General Francis Noel Mutisi
  • 3 Brigade - Brigadier General Eliah Bandama
  • 4 Brigade - Brigadier General Chancellor Diye
  • 5 Brigade - Brigadier General Justin Mujaji
  • Artillery Brigade- Brigadier General Etherton Shungu
  • Mechanised Brigade - Brigadier General Sigauke was tanfered now we have deputy commande Mlambo
  • Artillery Brigade - Colonel Morgan Urayai Munawa
  • Parachute Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel Khupe
  • Commando Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel Hwami Vengesai
  • Special Air Service - Lieutenant Col Casper Nyagura
  • Presidential Guards - Colonel Anselem Sanyatwe
  • Mounted Infantry Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel Mabhena (Chigaba died in a car accident in 2011 April)
  • Corps of Engineers - Colonel Mkhululi Bhika Ncube
  • Corps of Intelligence - Colonel M. Mzilikazi
  • Medical Corps - Colonel Mutetse
  • Corps of Signals - Colonel Masenda
  • Education Corps - Colonel E Hungwe


  • Five brigades with three Combat Groups each.
  • The Presidential Guard: Three battalions at Dzivarasekwa barracks led by Brigadier Armstrong Gunda. [3] Also known as the Presidential Guard Group or the Presidential Guard Brigade
  • A number of Combat Groups(possibly between ten and twenty battalions)
  • The Tank Regiment
  • The Mechanised Regiment (IFVs)
  • Two Field Artillery Regiments
  • 1 Air Defence Artillery Regiment based at Redcliffe
  • Two Combat Engineer Regiments at Pomona Barracks
  • ZDF Construction Regiment
  • The Commando Regiment (part of the Special Forces of Zimbabwe)
  • The Parachute Regiment (also known as the Parachute Group or Parachute Battalion) (part of the Special Forces of Zimbabwe)
  • The Special Air Service (part of the Special Forces of Zimbabwe)
  • The Boat Squadron (part of the Special Forces of Zimbabwe)
  • The Zimbabwe Mounted Infantry (a horse-mounted unit indirectly derived from Grey's Scouts) (part of the Special Forces of Zimbabwe)
  • Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron

Infantry Brigade Organisation[]

Each brigade has:

  • Three Combat Groups with 35 APCs each
  • Reconnaissance Company (12 EE-9)
  • Signals Company
  • Mortar Battery (6 81/82mm or 120mm)
  • SAM 3 Advanced battery
  • Engineer company
  • Supply and transport
  • Workshop
  • Medical units


Anti-Tank Weapons[]

Light Infantry Weapons[]


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  • 1 Brigade HQ - Imbizo
  • 1.2 Combat Group - Hwange
  • 1.3 Combat Group - Plumtree
  • School of Infantry - Induna
  • 2 Brigade HQ - Old Cranborne
  • 2.2 Combat Group - Mudzi
  • 2.3 Combat Group - Magunje
  • 3 Brigade HQ - Chikanga
  • 3.2 Combat Group - Tsanzaguru
  • 3.3 Combat Group - Changadzi Barracks
  • 4 Brigade HQ - Masvingo
  • 4.2 Combat Group - Gutu
  • 5 Brigade - all three combat groups Battlefields
  • 2 Mechanized Battalion - Ingezi
  • Dadaya Barracks
  • Dzivarasekwa (Harare) - HQ Presidential Guard
  • State House (Harare) - 1 Presidential Guard Battalion
  • KG VI (Harare) - Defence Forces HQ, Zimbabwe Staff College
  • Inkomo (Harare) - Armoured Brigade, Parachute Group
  • Kabrit (Harare) - Military Intelligence
  • Pondorosa – Air Defence Regiment
  • Chakari – Air Defence Regiment
  • Pomona (Harare) - School of Combat Engineering
  • Cranborne (Harare) - HQ Commando Regiment
  • Darwendale (Darwendale) - CAD
  • Elfrida - Zimbabwe Defence Industries
  • Connemara (Gweru) - Prison housed here
  • Guinea Fowl (Gweru) - HQ Mounted Infantry
  • Kutanga Range - Training School (artillery, armour and airforce bombing range)
  • Zimbabwe Military Academy (Gweru) -
  • Border Battle School (Nyanga) - Combined Arms Battle school
  • Lazy Nine (Shurugwi) - Combined Armes Battle School
  • Nyami-nyami (Kariba) - Boat Squadron
  • Wafawafa (Kariba) - training grounds


  1. Rasmussen, R. K., & Rubert, S. C., 1990. A Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe, Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, NJ, USA.
  2. Good sources for this first period are Norma J. Kriger, Guerrilla Veterans in Post-war Zimbabwe: Symbolic and Violent Politics, 1980-1987, Cambridge, 2003, and Susan Rice, The Commonwealth Intervention in Zimbabwe 1980, D.Phil thesis, New College Oxford, 1990
  3. Kriger, 2003, p.113
  4. [1] [2]
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 Jones, Richard D. Jane's Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's Information Group; 35 edition (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "jones2009" defined multiple times with different content
  15. Gangarosa, 2001. pp. 76–77.

External links[]

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