Zimbabwe under threat from Mozambique civil war as rebels and refugees are now crossing over into Zimbabwean
AREAS along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique are under threat from the unrest rocking the neighbouring country following fresh clashes between the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) government and opposition Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), the Financial Gazette can report.
Renamo, a rebel movement led by opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, waged a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992 against Frelimo, which has been ruling Mozambique since independence in 1975.
The Dhlakama-led militant opposition went into a power-sharing arrangement with the Filipe Nyusi-led government, but later withdrew in 2013 citing an unfair governance system.
The rebel movement also refused to accept the Frelimo party’s victory in 2014 elections and has taken up arms.
In an escalation of a simmering conflict between the old civil war foes, pockets of violent clashes have erupted in the neighbouring country.
Mozambique’s Ministry of Education and Human Development has revealed that 97 schools have been closed in Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia provinces due to clashes between Renamo and government security forces.
The on-going clashes are posing a new security threat to Zimbabwe after Renamo rebels and Mozambican refugees were spotted in areas bordering Mozambique in the eastern province.
Early this year, Renamo rebel soldiers were spotted in Nyanga and Burma Valley where they lured unemployed youths to join their army.
In Chipinge District — situated in the southern part of Manicaland — Mozambicans have sought refuge.
Members of Parliament, traditional leaders and pressure groups have warned of an imminent threat posed by the conflict in Mozambique.
Nyanga North legislator, Hubert Nyanhongo, told a Parliamentary session in March this year that Renamo rebels were recruiting youths from his constituency.
A Burma Valley-based farmer recently confirmed similar incidents in the banana farming area.
“We are at risk of losing some of our farm workers here because Renamo soldiers have been coming here frequently and asking our workers to join their army. We are very worried about our safety and that of our livestock. Who knows maybe tomorrow they will be forcing everyone to join,” said the resettled farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Chipinge resident and Platform for Youth Development founder, Claris Madhuku, said Mozambicans fleeing from the unrest were seeking refuge in Chipinge.
“It may be important for the public to know that the unrest in Mozambique is affecting areas along the border. There has been an influx of people from Mozambique to Zimbabwe, who are seeking refuge from Matsangaise (Renamo rebels),” he said.
Chief Mapungwana also confirmed that several Mozambicans have approached his traditional council asking for a place to seek refuge.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Luxson Chananda, however, said he was in the dark over the matter.
But Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, said their officers in Manicaland were on high alert.
“I have checked with officer commanding Manicaland and officer commanding Mashonaland West because they, both, police borders with Mozambique, but they haven’t received anything official. They have also checked with refugee camps (Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge), but there are unconfirmed rumours. So they are going to verify these reports and see whether it’s true or not,” she said.
Provincial army spokesperson, Major Luke Mafere, referred questions to national army spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, who requested questions in writing.
These were e-mailed to him over a fortnight ago before he later requested this paper to send the questions to a Colonel Ndlovu at the Zimbabwe National Army headquarters.
Ndlovu had not responded to questions from this newspaper at the time of going to print.
Buhera South legislator, Joseph Chinotimba, recently raised concerns in Parliament over the army’s state of preparedness in dealing with the Mozambican crisis.
Chinotimba said Zimbabweans living along border areas were not safe, including the country’s investments such as the Beira Corridor which transports fuel from the Beira Port to Mutare.
Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeremayi, responded by saying government was closely following events in Mozambique and would react accordingly to any threats.
“The Mozambican government should be the first to deal with Renamo rebellion. When our interests are tempered with, we will definitely react and we will notify the government there,” Sekeremayi told Parliament.
Source: Financial Gazette