Government should develop rural infrastructure in areas that bore the brunt of the liberation struggle and improve people's living standards, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga has said.
Addressing hundreds of villagers at Murongwe Primary School in Mt Darwin yesterday, Gen Chiwenga said many areas along the country's borders still lagged behind in terms of development.
He visited the school to check on progress on the construction of classroom blocks, toilets and teachers' houses under the Commander's Charity Fund.
The school, that has 641 pupils, was using makeshift pole and dagga classrooms.
Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshall Perrance Shiri, Mashonaland Central Governor Advocate Martin Dinha, Zimpapers chief executive Mr Justin Mutasa, ZBC Holdings chief executive Mr Happison Muchechetere and Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central provincial chairman Cde Dickson Mafios accompanied Gen Chiwenga.
Said Gen Chiwenga: "Infrastructure development is key in uplifting people's standards. You are one such area that ignited the liberation struggle.
"To make matters worse, after Independence to 1992 development and people in the Dande area were affected by disturbances that occurred in Mozambique.
"With all this there is need to intensify development because these areas can immensely contribute to the country's Gross Domestic Product."
He said people should not "gamble" with the country's independence as it came through a protracted struggle.
"You cannot sell your country because of petty benefits. What we fought for many years is something that we should defend at all costs.
"Some of us, including politicians, have become sell outs but we warn such characters that the ZDF is ready to thwart them," he said.
Gen Chiwenga said unity was vital to any progressive nation.
"Prioritise unity and education in whatever you do because these two are vital cogs in development.
"We have been placed under economic sanctions but if we unite and work together we will overcome them," he said.
Air Marshall Shiri described the ZDF as a people's force that will continue giving a hand to needy communities.
"We are not only involved in war activities but also engage in social responsibility programmes as we try to build a better Zimbabwe," he said.
Gen Chiwenga pledged 240 tonnes of maize to the people of Mt Darwin North to complement the Government's Grain Loan Scheme.
Zimpapers donated US$1 000 cash while ZBC weighed in with US$2 000 to support the completion of the classroom blocks at Murongwe.
Governor Dinha paid tribute to the Commander's Charity Fund saying it had transformed the lives of hundreds of pupils in Dande.
"This is a welcome development because lessons used to be disrupted during the rainy season.
"We have moved a step further and it is our hope that a secondary school would be constructed to save pupils from walking long distances," he said.
The pupils also walk for over 20km to the nearest examination centre.
Eight classroom blocks are being constructed under the fund and four have been completed since the commencement of the project in December last year.