Why Zimbabweans should query the deployment of troops to Mozambique

File photo from the DRC second war (Tyler Hicks / Getty Images)

For development’s sake the deployment of the military maybe the only viable course of action to save lives, protect national interests and cement alliances, however for Zimbabwe underlying elite interests always precede national interests and that is why citizens have to demand transparency and monitor the imminent deployment of troops to Mozambique.

On the recent double troika summit in Mozambique SADC leaders finally decided to act on a conflict they have been ignoring or have been forced to ignore for so much long. Three years into the conflict which flared out of control in 2017 and repeated warnings by the African Union (AU), SADC leaders admitted the existence of a crisis in Mozambique at the Extraordinary Summit on the 19th of May 2020 and even then it took them almost a year to finally come to an agreement to provide collective military support.

Despite the threats of possible spillage of violence across borders the Mozambique conflict was given far less attention. The main reason has been highlighted as the unwillingness of Mozambique to accept foreign assistance however some have highlighted the insignificance of that conflict to other countries’ economies and recent comments also point to the lack of capacity of SADC militaries to effectively intervene.

The unwillingness of Mozambique to accept foreign assistance is justifiable, the government there understands that foreign involvement is not the best option in a conflict anchored on legitimate local population concerns that the region’s natural resources boom has not been utilised to help them, disputes among local elites, narco-trafficking and now a complicated linkages to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

And also looking back at other conflicts in the SADC region which involved multiple players with an intricate web of interests, Mozambique would have been better off without foreign help or specifically foreign boots on the ground.

Now that the US has alreadyannounced a small training mission of US Special Operations Forces “to support Mozambique’s efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism” in Mozambique, the cat is out of the bag, SADC has promised an “immediate technical deployment” and MNCs such as French oil company Total, the United State’s EXIM Bank, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell which have already been in the region are fighting to secure their interests.

To understand this now hybrid conflict matrix in Mozambique and the possible entry node for Zimbabwe we have to look at the previous foreign deployment of the Zimbabwean military, that is the famous DRC deployment. Just like the current conflict in Mozambique, natural resources and the distribution thereof were at the core of the conflict. Warring parties, from rebels and the government propped up by foreign powers, MNCs and cartels find themselves within a massive web of interests.

Within this web of interests stood Zimbabwe, a mid-size country with massive natural resources and a struggling economy. Looking at it from the previous deployment’s stand point we can see that the situation in Zimbabwe was made worse by the deployment and to make matters worse the deployment left DRC worse off due to alleged criminality and looting by a network of looters.

As Zimbabwe was losing soldiers and money in war up-keeping the United Nations Security Council Panel of experts found that Zimbabwean military elite and political players together with over 85 multinationals in South Africa, Europe and the United States have contravened guidelines on conflict zones set down by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). DRC itself lost over 5 Billion us Dollars to alleged corrupt deals orchestrated by Zimbabwean elites alone.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the then Speaker of Parliament, the then Defense Minister soft spoken Sydney Sekeramai, Air Marshal Perence Shiri (now late), Vitalis Musunga Gava Zvinavashe (now late), the then Brigadier General Sibusiso Moyo (now late), Air Commodore Mike Tichafa Karakadzai (now late), mining tycoons John Bredenkamp, Billy Rautenbauch and others were part of a network which has transferred ownership of at least US$5 billion of assets from the state mining sector to private companies under their control in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 with no compensation or benefit for the DRC State treasury.

Speaker Mnangagwa then even though he denied the allegations was also accused, in an investigative report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais of facilitating the smuggling of diamonds from the DRC via Harare International Airport to their finaldestinations.

A far as armies were implicated as institutions, individuals be they military personnel, politicians and business people continued to loot even post official deployment as the 2002 report noted:

“The looting that was previously conducted by the armiesthemselves has been replaced by organized systems of embezzlement, tax fraud, extortion, the use of stock options as kickbacks and diversion of state funds.”

Fuelling the conflict

The problem with the “new-elite” was that they also acted as catalysts of the conflict. According to UNSC experts the elite network benefited from instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and

“Its representatives in the Kinshasa Government and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have fueled instability by supportingarmed groups opposing Rwanda and Burundi.”

The then Air Marshal Perence Shiri was involved in military procurement and organizing air support for the pro-Kinshasa armed groups fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and was said to have been part of the inner circle of Zimbabwe National Army diamond traders who had made Zimbabwe an illicit diamond-trading hub.

Brigadier Sbusiso Moyo advised both Tremalt and Oryx Natural Resources, which represented covert Zimbabwean military financial interests in negotiations with State mining companiesof the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Commander of ZDF and Executive Chairman of COSLEG (a joint venture company that was formed by a DRC-based entity Congo Comiex and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’s company Operation Sovereign Legitimacy), General Vitalis Zvinavashe and his family have been instrumentally involved in diamond trading and supply contracts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And Speaker Mnangagwa who has won strong support from senior military and intelligence officers for an aggressive policy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was according to reports then the chief architect of the network of Zimbabwean elite.

In this matrix we also found out that there was corruption which feeds into the Zimbabwe electoral system. The Panel of experts found a copy of a letter from the then Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi thanking the Chief Executive of Oryx Natural Resources, the controversial ZANU PF benefactor Thamer Bin Said Ahmed Al-Shanfari, for his material and moral support during the chaotic parliamentary elections of 2000 which the report found to be in violation of Zimbabwean electoral laws.

Mnangagwa in Mozambique

Despite his section 110 rights to deploy troops at home and abroad the Zimbabwean president’s history raises many questions on his ability to make decisions without personal interests motivations.

It is then justifiable not to trust the then speaker of parliament Mnangagwa with Mozambique, it is worth noting that Mozambique is as fragile as DRC and already competing interests are already sharing the cake of Mozambican resources.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Pemba Luiz Fernando Lisboa recently said it increasingly looks as if Cabo Delgado province is being divided and parceled out to big multinational companies. With more players in the picture the situation is bound to be worse.

The elite which controlled resources in the DRC on the pretext of supporting president Kabila may recreate itself and create new alliances and loot Mozambique.

Already narco-trafficking connected to political players and minerals smuggling routes are serious probable causes of this new found interests in Mozambique. Combined with weak state institutions in the region a conflict may fuel a full blowed, self-funding conflict benefiting a connected elite.

What are your thoughts, should Zimbabwe put boots on the ground in Mozambique given it’s history in the previous SADC deployment.

Comment your thoughts in the comment box below.

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[ Development Practitioner • IR Postgraduate Student • African • Queer • Anti-Poverty ]

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