The Zimbabwe National Army is an integral arm of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces' fighting machinery. Its formation was a feat by any definition and a major exercise in diplomacy as it involved the merger of three armies, two of which had been at loggerheads with the other. The liberation forces, comprising the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) had been pitted against the Rhodesian Army, but following a ceasefire which came into effect in 1989, the opposing forces put aside their differences, embraced the policy of reconciliation enunciated by His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in a victory broadcast on March 4, 1980 and were integrated into a single, compact entity.

As set out in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces policy, the role of the army includes limited conventional war, military assistance to the civil power and civil ministries and external operations. Military aid to the civil power entails counter-insurgency operations that may be carried out by the army or jointly with other security forces to quell civil disorder. Military assistance to the civil ministries is any help that the ZNA can give to maintain essential services during civil disorder or national emergencies like floods, bus accidents, droughts and strikes.

The ZNA is under the command of Lieutenant General Philip Velario Sibanda, who took over from General Constantine Chiwenga following his elevation to the post of Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces in December 2003. His elevation followed the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who became the first commander of the Defence Forces in 1993.