Mukudzei Chingwere and Columbus Mabika
The Covid-19 pandemic raging across the world is a security threat so all men and women in uniform must take scientific advice and get vaccinated, Commander Air Force of Zimbabwe Air Marshall Elson Moyo said yesterday.
As part of efforts to put into practice Government’s call of producing rather than continuing to mourn about sanctions, the airmen among other things are manufacturing Covid-19 response equipment like sanitisation booths, as well as complementing the vaccination drive.
Air Marshall Moyo fielded questions from the media yesterday ahead of this year’s edition of the Defence Forces Day celebrations next week, and emphasised safety of service personnel, both from diseases and workplace accidents.
“Let me emphasise on the issue of vaccination. The Air Force handles very sensitive information, and therefore we take our health very seriously.
“All members are expected to remain medical fit. Covid-19 has got to be prevented and therefore it is mandatory for all our frontline workers to be vaccinated.”
Air Marshall Moyo said the force was aware that there has been talk of the vaccination exercise being voluntary, but explained that does not apply when dealing with issues of a security nature.
“Covid-19 has indeed become a threat to human security and the global economy. The AFZ has not been spared and this has made us come up with strategies to fight against the disease.
“Using the Covid-19 guidelines on combating and prevention of the pandemic we have embarked on awareness campaigns, prevention mechanisms and vaccination,” said the AFZ Commander.
“AFZ personnel were also categorised amongst frontline workers by virtue of the service they provide to the nation hence there was a deliberate effort to get all of the members vaccinated as a measure to curb the spread of the disease.
“The testing for Covid-19 on all crew members on tasks has also helped. I must say this has helped in reducing infections on our active members and those with whom we get in touch.”
The air force was now assisting the communities around its bases and stations to get vaccinated through the deployment of medical personnel, as part of the policy that you are safe when everyone is safe.
Air Marshall Moyo said this year the air force conducted the recruitment exercise in a safe manner without risking a spike in Covid-19 infections, but training will commence once the situation has been put under control. Recruitment this year also drew more women.
As a high-tech organisation the air force places stress on training and has now introduced degree programmes. The AFZ has invested heavily in training to pass on skills and experience earned and attained over the years in the service.
“I am always proud to see young pilots getting into the cockpit to fly some of the platforms that we flew such as the Hunter and Hawk jets in the background today.
“Training is a critical success factor for a technology-heavy organisation such as the AFZ hence we have gone further to affiliate our training schools to the Zimbabwe National Defence University where a number of degree programs for different professionals are being offered,” said Air Marshall Moyo.
He also talked about the accidents that were witnessed recently.
The AFZ experienced two fatal accidents in the last two years and we are still mourning the sad loss.
“After the accidents we have redoubled our efforts on flight safety awareness for the aircrew and we have also put in place structures to provide support to our aircrew on mental health issues,” said the AFZ Commander.
Going forward he said the vision of the AFZ, “to have a small, well equipped, robust and hard-hitting air force capable of effectively defending Zimbabwe’s airspace,” and he said the process to re-equip the AFZ was on-going.