Mozambique insurgency: Mnangagwa on the ropes as SADC presses Zim to play pivotal role

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa is under intense pressure to play a leading role in a planned military intervention to stop a deadly insurgency by Islamists in northern Mozambique, but is sceptical of the huge cost the war will take at Zimbabwe’s ailing economy.

Despite internal pressure not to venture into an explosive war, Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders believe they stood with Zimbabwe in its fight against removal of sanctions by the West so it is “payback time.”

At the same time, military sources told Zim Morning Post that inaction is not an option as the current situation in Mozambique has the potential to explode across the border, into Zimbabwe, and affect national interests in the eastern border town of Mutare. 

“SADC leaders see Zimbabwe as strategically positioned and having the military capacity to lead in the war. Mnangagwa wants Zimbabwe to rally behind South Africa which is regarded as a big brother,” said the source. 

Thousands of people have been forcibly displaced and hundreds have been left dead since the insurgency began in 2017.

A leading aid agency, Save the Children, says that children as young as 11 are being beheaded in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.

SADC has now pressed the panic button over the militant insurgencies in Mozambique.

Amid concern over regional peace, SADC Troika on Defence and Security chairperson, Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi this week launched a diplomatic offensive, meeting SADC Heads of States persuading them to combine forces and help Mozambique.

Zim Morning Post established that SADC wants Zimbabwe to play a pivotal role in the war given its proximity to Mozambique as well as its past experiences in international peacekeeping missions.

Sources close to the developments told Zim Morning Post that regional leaders want to help as long as Zimbabwe will be leading in the front.

“On three occasion SADC has postponed convening a summit on Mozambique because of lack of consensus over leadership. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is sceptical as playing a leading role in the Mozambique war will take a toll on the ailing economy. Furthermore, He (Mnangagwa) has been facing internal resistance and playing a leading role in the foreign war will only attract a barrage of criticism,” said the source.

Masisi has already met with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, Zambian leader Edgar Lungu, Malawi leader Lazarus Chakwera and lastly he jetted into Zimbabwe this week to convey messages from the regional bloc.

“After his closed door meeting with Mnangagwa, Masisi told the media that he was leaving Zimbabwe a happy man because a lasting solution has been found to help Mozambique,” said the source.

Is Zimbabwe Ready for Another War

In May last year Zimbabwe deployed a reconnaissance team to Mozambique. 

Zimbabwe offered to deploy at least 30 non-commissioned officers to Mozambique to train the neighbouring country’s army amid Islamic terrorist insurgency that has rocked it.

This followed Mnangagwa’s meeting with his counterpart Filipe Nyusi in Chimoio where both leaders strongly condemned acts of terror being perpetrated in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Manila and Sofala as they undermine efforts towards peace and development in the SADC region. 

Military sources told Zim Morning Post that Mnangagwa, is concerned about the current situation which has potential to explode across the border and affect national interests in the border town of Mutare.

“When Nyusi met President (Mnangagwa), he requested assistance in training in case of full scale military intervention,” said a source.

“The president did not hesitate to offer assistance because he looked at the bigger picture of protecting national interests in the event that violence escalates. Remember parts of the affected area are close to the Manicaland border and that is the province where our pipeline (Feruka) passes through,” the insider added. 

“We also have vast tracts of mineral rich land in that province like Chiadzwa so we have to protect our diamonds. The Renamo affiliated Islamists might plunder our diamonds to fund their operations,” explained our source.

Army spokesman Alphios Makotore could neither confirm nor deny that Zimbabwe will play a key role in Mozambique.

“Such questions should be directed to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. The army does not comment where government to government agreements are being negotiated,” Makotore said.

Zim Morning Post understands that the Zimbabwe National Army also deployed an unknown number of ‘reconnaissance’ advance team on a mission to obtain information by visual observation about the activities of Islamic terrorists in Cabo Delgado, Manila and Sofala provinces.

“The reconnaissance team was deployed way before the non-commissioned guys went to pave way for them and acclimatize with the geographic characteristics of the provinces under attack,” added our source.

The deployment of soldiers is in line with the two leaders’ commitment to bilateral cooperation in the political, defence and security fields which they vowed to implement positively and within the framework of current legal instruments. 

Another senior government official said if violence escalates in Mozambique then all of SADC will second a combined military force to help Nyusi.

“Zim will not go it alone in the event of a full throttle military operation. SADC will second a combined military force to help Mozambique,” the official said.

Despite internal pressure not to venture into an explosive war, SADC leaders believe they stood with Zimbabwe in its fight against removal of sanctions by the West so it is “payback time.”

Counting The Costs

Zimbabwe has never recovered after it played a leading role in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) war which resulted not only in massive loss of human lives but also took a huge knock at the Southern African country’s ailing economy.

“We learnt a lot from the DRC war whose impact is still being felt decades later so no-one is ready to venture into such another disaster,” said one former retired soldier who refused to be named.

“The good thing is that at the material time Mnangagwa was the key person in DRC so he is aware of the impact and effects of war on our economy.”

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