By Mutsa Makuvaza
MEN and Women from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) will assist in the training of Mozambique’s armed forces to enhance their capacity to fight terrorism, Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has said.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said Zimbabwe will send a total of 304 soldiers to Mozambique, comprising 303 instructors and one specialist officer to the coordinating mechanism of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Force Headquarters in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
Zimbabwe’s contingent will be deployed once the Status of Force Agreement has been signed, the minister said, adding that the Parliament of Zimbabwe will be informed accordingly about the development.
However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba hinted that his Government might have already deployed troops but would have no time for media photo shoots.
The regional body’s member states are joining on the side of Mozambique Government forces to thwart and drive out Jihadist insurgents coming in from the northern border with Tanzania, who have already disrupted oil drilling operations and brutally murdered citizens since their incursions some years ago.
Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, Charamba said: “Don’t expect images of our men and women in (military) fatigues. It is not the tradition of ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) to deploy in the full glare of the media. We know well enough what’s never done ahead or during operations. I am just saying zvangu!”
The Zimbabwe National Army commandos will be joining a SADC Standby Force consisting of more than 800 soldiers from different countries in the region.
To date, only South Africa and Botswana had openly deployed forces. While SADC agreed with Mozambique to send in forces to support their ally, deployment by member states has been slow and uncoordinated, but Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi this week gave a hint why that was the case.
Masisi, as SADC’s politics, defence and security chair, has been shuttling between Maputo, Gaborone and other regional capitals rallying support for regional intervention to stop the Islamic State-linked insurgency.
Sending off the his 260 troops Monday morning at Sir Seretse Khama Airport, Masisi revealed that each SADC member contributing troops to the battle would pay its own costs, together with assistance from the SADC Secretariat.
“Your deployment comes at a time when the country is facing economic challenges which have been exacerbated to a great extent by the COVID-19 Pandemic which is inflicting enormous health, economic, and social damage to all nations,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, my government through the Reset Initiative is working tirelessly to reinvigorate the local economy and will be sourcing some of the services for the mission locally.”
Masisi also added that the terrorists were expected to use asymmetric and unconventional warfare to pursue their goals, but soldiers were expected to remain professional.
“As professionals, you stand for much more than they do and must avoid emulating them and sinking to their level,” he told the troops.
“I therefore demand nothing less from you to observe the Laws of Armed Conflict as prescribed internationally in your profession of arms, as well as the Status of Force Agreement which establishes the framework under which the SADC Mission in Mozambique personnel will operate in Mozambique.”
Rwanda, which is not a SADC member, already has 1,000 soldiers in the east African country, having secured a bilateral arrangement to deploy with Mozambique. In addition, Western countries have contributed military support to stem the conflict.
During SADC’s extraordinary summit that was held in Maputo last month, SADC member states resolved to deploy a force to help Mozambique contain insurgency in its northern provinces where terrorists have left a trail of destruction that also threatens regional peace. – Xinhua / Zimbabwevoice.com □