The Zimbabwe Defence Forces have a constitutional role to defend the country's security interests and can be deployed to assist the police, despite statements by critics that they should be confined to their barracks, says Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.
Speaking during a lecture on the Constitution at the Zimbabwe Staff College at Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks yesterday, he said: "The Constitution is very clear to say that the defence forces defend the security interests of Zimbabwe and the security interests of Zimbabwe are varied.
"We have a security interest in food security, in our minerals, in the maintenance of peace and order. We also have a security issue even though we have the Zimbabwe Republic Police that deals with the maintenance of peace and order.
"But there can also come a time when there is need to support the police in carrying out their functions and the Constitution makes provisions for this to say that there is a security threat internally then the defence forces can be called upon to assist the police in carrying out their mandate."
He shot down utterances by critics that the military had no role to play in the internal affairs of the country.
"In Zimbabwe, the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, has the powers to deploy the army to carry out that function. A lot of people have debated to say that the military should stay in barracks, but the defence forces are not supposed to stay in barracks because they will not be able to know where security threats are.
"If our minerals are being smuggled, we can call upon the military to monitor our borders and if there is a national disaster the Civil Protection Unit can call upon the military to assist like what happened in Chimanimani during Cyclone Idai," he added.
Minister Ziyambi said Parliament had no role to decide when the defence forces could be deployed internally.
"Parliament does not have a role to say yes or no when the defence forces are called upon to help the police inside Zimbabwe. What is required is for the President to merely inform Parliament that 'I have deployed the military to assist the police in the maintenance of peace and order in Zimbabwe' and the reasons why he deployed them," he said.
He said Parliament could only vote against foreign military deployment and the President would be obliged to recall troops.