… as neighbour’s internal hostilities threaten to escalate
ZIMBABWE has increased military presence along its borders with Mozambique, where clashes between the Frelimo government and former rebel movement Renamo are threatening to escalate into a civil war.
By Elias Mambo
Fears of a return to civil war that could also destabilise the entire Southern African region have heightened after Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who is in hiding in Mozambique’s Sofala region, announced that he was abandoning the 1992 Rome peace pact.
A significant number of Zimbabwean soldiers were seen last week in the Gwaivhi and Dandani villages, 20km away from the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.
“Soldiers are always seen in the area patrolling, but the number has increased significantly since Renamo threatened war in Mozambique,” said an elderly villager in Dandani.
Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa said last week if Renamo resorts to violence, it will be a disaster and Zimbabwe is ready to back Frelimo in order to protect its interests.
However, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi said while the country is ready to protect its interests in Mozambique, it has no intention of deploying troops unless the Mozambican government asks for assistance.
“Our concern as a country would first and foremost be the security of our railway and pipeline. Obviously, Mozambique and us are very good neighbours and you don’t want instability in a friendly country,” said Sekeramayi.
Zimbabwe’s oil pipeline, which runs through the Beira Corridor, supplies most of the country’s fuel needs while Beira is Zimbabwe’s closest port and vital access point for goods including coal destined for export.
Army insiders claim Zimbabwe could not deploy in Mozambique because it wants to avoid the disaster it experienced when it helped the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the rebels.
Zimbabwe suffered heavy casualties during its involvement in the DRC after President Robert Mugabe deployed about 11 000 soldiers to defend the late DRC president Laurent Kabila’s government which had come under siege from Rwanda and Uganda-backed rebels in 1998.
The deployment was blamed for bleeding the economy.
“Zimbabwe learnt from the DRC war that it has to work with the region and not to solely rush into intervening in regional wars,” said an army source.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi said Mozambique has not requested for help from either Zimbabwe or Sadc and intervention can only come once the regional body gives a nod.
“Intervention in Mozambique can only be done through Sadc because the regional body has a 4 000-strong brigade of soldiers,” Mugwisi said.'