PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa this week said Zimbabwe was ready to intervene in the conflict playing out in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but Zimbabweans will respond to this with mixed feelings.
At a humanitarian level, this is without a doubt the right thing to do, but after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) intervention that began in 1998 and its human and financial cost to the country, Zimbabweans should be wary of any adventure that might again send the country into an economic tailspin.
In the mid-1990s, Laurent Desire Kabila, a rebel commander led an insurgency — the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, popularly known as the Banyamuenge — into Zaire to topple the increasing depraved government of Mobutu Sese Seko who had ruled the country with an iron fist for decades.
But soon after taking over the leadership of Zaire on May 17, 1997, and changing its name to DRC Kabila fell out with his allies, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
The two thought Kabila was not doing enough, as they had hoped he would after they supported his insurgency, to stop rebels invading their own territories.
The Banyamulenge force had been mainly composed of Tutsis who lived in the Mulenge area of eastern Zaire. Kabila soon alienated the Tutsis who had brought him to power by favouring people of his ethnicity, a typical African leadership problem. Needless to say, the Banyamulenge rebelled against him emboldened by support from Museveni and Kabila.
Facing obvious defeat Kabila appealed to regional bloc Southern African Development Community for help. Three members of that bloc — Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola intervened militarily. That conflict became known as Africa’s First World War.
Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe justified the intervention saying it was to protect the country’s national interests. But that intervention weakened his regime, draining the budget, damaging the economy and increasing mass discontent. Many among the Zimbabwean population perceived the intervention was due largely to the personal business interests in the DRC of a number of senior politicians and military officers.
That perception has remained widespread and accurate. The armed forces were particularly irked by the intervention due to the loss of their comrades and that at the end of the conflict they had, unlike their bosses, nothing to show for it.
The number of Zimbabwean soldiers who died in that conflict has, and may, never be known.
For ordinary Zimbabweans too that intervention yielded little gain; instead, it was South Africa, which had refused to intervene militarily, which reaped the rewards by taking up the business opportunities the DRC presented.
The same had happened years earlier when Zimbabwean military forces helped crash an earlier insurgency in Mozambique led by Alfonso Dhlakama and his Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo). It was South Africa which reaped the rewards despite that it had spawned and sponsored Renamo during the apartheid era.
What is happening in Cabo Delgado has echoes of the two earlier conflicts in which Zimbabwe intervened. This time an Islamist rebel group has been marauding across the province killing civilians. Only a week ago 50 people were gruesomely beheaded as the insurgency stamps its authority. That conflict is now known as the Cabo Delgado Civil War as it pits the Mozambican government forces against militants linked to ISIS which wishes to establish an Islamic state in that part of the country.
Mnangagwa this week said: “Zimbabwe is ready to assist in any way we can. The security of our region is paramount in the protection of our people.”
Muckraker hopes Mnangagwa is not going the same way that Mugabe did, that is throw the country into an intractable conflict whose way out will be difficult. Very importantly he should not do so — like Mugabe did — without consulting Parliament. The aftermath of the DRC intervention shows that only “narrow constituencies of individuals including smugglers, arms dealers, and corrupt military officials have profited handsomely from the war”.
A United Nations Security Council report of October 2002 alleged Mnangagwa and his cabal of military generals were involved in the pilferage of US$5 billion worth of mineral assets from DRC.
The report says: “The elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean political, military and commercial interests (according to report led by Mnangagwa himself) seek to maintain its grip on the main mineral resources — diamonds, cobalt, copper, germanium — of the government-controlled area. This network has transferred ownership of at least US$5 billion of assets from the State mining sector to private companies under its control…”
What is at stake in Cabo Delgado?
In 2009-10 huge deposits of rubies and a giant gas field was discovered in Cabo Delgado. It is this “resource curse” that has come to haunt Mozambique. After raising hopes that the common people would get jobs and a better life nothing of the sort materialised.
Instead, according to credible reports, only a small clique in the ruling Frelimo party benefited raising the ire of the people some of whom bunched up with Islamist rebels to fight the apparent injustice.
Could a small gang in the Zimbabwean government and the military, like vultures, already smell carrion? Could this circle already be eyeing the Cabo Delgado rubies and the gas?
The Zimbabwean parliament should play its oversight role in this matter and ensure first, that it is consulted and that it speaks on behalf of the people and the people give their nod. Second, it should ensure that any adventure into Mozambique is done in such a manner that Zimbabwe is part of a regional force rather than a solo effort. Third, it should ensure that Zimbabwe goes in there in a way that does not encourage the conflict to spill over into Zimbabwean territory.
And, fourth and most importantly, parliament should ensure the Zimbabwean taxpayer is not shouldered with the cost of the conflict!
In the aftermath of the death in a horrific car accident of businessman and socialite Genius Kadungure populary known as Ginimbi, Muckraker has been thinking scientific; and this will bamboozle the majority Zimbabweans.
Here is an anecdote: a carbonaceous (just means rich in carbon, stupid) asteroid was discovered some years ago. It was named Bennu for an ancient Egyptian eagle. Bennu currently orbits the sun with a period of 1 1955 years. Earth gets as close as about 480 000km from its orbit around September 23-25, but otherwise it is several hundred millions of km away from us.
There is no danger of it ever striking our planet, but if it ever did, its impact “would be the equivalent of a very large nuclear bomb going off”. Sixteen km away from the impact the asteroid strike would “create so much heat that you and everything around you will be enveloped in flames”.
So what is the big deal if this asteroid will never strike earth?
There is a group of nutty professors at Nasa who got excited with Bennu; for them it had clues on how the galaxies and the planets in them were formed (so what?). The clues had to be got!
They came together and amassed loads of money to create a vehicle that would fly to Bennu to get a rock sample of it. That vehicle was named Osiris REx an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
Now the average Zimbabwean is getting really confused.
This scientific adventure contrasts starkly with the situation in Zimbabwe. In our dear country, wealth and knowledge is not gotten through science. There is a whole underworld of spirits that influences our day-to-day lives. These spirits — some say they manifest as mermaids, some say as tokoloshes — can be harnessed by adventurous businesspeople to make them stinking rich. Businesspeople who dare to delve into this spirit world are given serpents that rob banks on their behalf and vomit out wads of good money in their bedrooms every morning.