President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is struggling to mobilise sufficient resources to contribute to the Southern Africa Development Committee Standing Force (SADC SF), which is supposed to start military operations to quell an insurgency in Mozambique Thursday.
Senior military and official sources told NewZimbabwe.com that presently, Zimbabwe can only afford to contribute soldiers and classic guns.
SADC last month resolved to deploy troops to combat Islamic insurgents who have over the past four years launched deadly raids in Mozambique’s oil and gas-rich Northern province of Cabo Delgado, killing at least 2 000 people and displacing nearly one million.
Zimbabwe is expected to volunteer troops for a strong 3 000-fighter regional force.
But with the country, in the middle of a debilitating economic crisis, now worsened by Covid-19, sources said Treasury had indicated there was no money to fund such an expensive operation as it would empty the already depleted coffers.
NewZimbabwe.com also understands that reservations have been expressed in military circles about the shortage of adequate and suitable weaponry necessary in fighting asymmetric warfare.
Asymmetric warfare is one in which a conventional state army fights against an internal or external non-state actor, often terrorists and or insurgents.
Under the SADC arrangement, member states are supposed to fund and equip their own combatants.
Sources said there have been several meetings over the past three weeks involving all stakeholders where it was repeatedly emphasised that there was no money for the exercise.
“There are basically three things here. First, the Ministry of Finance says there is no money at the moment to finance the operation. Fighters who go there will require allowances which can only be paid by the government and, as we learnt from the DRC experience, this is a very expensive undertaking,” the source said.
“Secondly, reservations came from those in the military that we lack the necessary tools to fight asymmetric warfare like this. Remember terrorists are different from a conventional army that fights openly. They play hide and seek.
“They are mostly embedded in communities and launch coordinated and sporadic raids before retreating quickly. There is a need for us to invest in modern technologies to successfully fight the insurgents such as drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. We need to exploit cyberspace, but we do not have that capability at the moment,” the source added.
A military source said: “Last year, highly skilled members of special forces were sent to Mozambique to do reconnaissance work. Their report suggested that the best way to win this war was to use these technologies to identify and weed out terrorists. Conventional warfare does not necessarily apply.”
Efforts to get a comment from Treasury were fruitless as both Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and his permanent secretary George Guvamatanga were not available for comment.
Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri’s mobile phone was being answered by one of her aides who said she was attending meetings.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said she could not comment as was attending to a family bereavement.
Her deputy, Kindness Paradza referred questions to Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson Alphios Makotore, who in turn referred them to SADC.
The SADC national media coordinator, Ivanhoe Matengarufu Gurira said: “I do not know anything. I have not been given information on whether the army is ready or the amount of money being set aside for that.”
Gurira then referred NewZimbabwe.com to presidential spokesperson George Charamba, whose cell phone directed calls to the voice mail.
Mozambique has also been trying to directly engage Zimbabwe for a bilateral arrangement where Harare would deploy troops outside the SADC plan.
However, Mnangagwa has been hesitant to commit to that because of the huge financial bearing it has.
Recent media reports also suggest that Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi was asked by French President Emmanuel Macron to ask Mnangagwa for an army to hire to protect French investments in the Liquified Gas Project in the strife-torn region. Again, Mnangagwa has been hesitant, insisting on the SADC arrangement.
France was offering both financial and technical assistance in the event Zimbabwe agreed to send its troops, the same arrangement they have with Rwanda which last Friday sent 1000 soldiers there.
On Friday, 9 July the Rwandan government announced its deployment of a 1 000-person contingent made up of the army and police force to Mozambique.
“The government of Rwanda, at the request of the government of Mozambique, will start the deployment of a 1 000-person contingent of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and the Rwanda National Police (RNP) to Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique, which is currently affected by terrorism and insecurity,” reads its statement.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform (SSR).”
Meanwhile, the deployment of Rwandan troops to Mozambique has rattled the South African government as it was before SADC troops expected Thursday.
“It is regrettable that this dispatch takes place before the deployment of Sadc troops, because whatever the bilateral relations between Rwanda and Mozambique, one would expect Rwanda to go to Mozambique in the context of a mandate given by heads of state in the Sadc region,” South Africa Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.
The minister said this was a bilateral issue, “a situation over which we have no control”.
Rwanda is not a SADC member.
However, Mozambique President Nyusi confirmed the arrival of Rwandan troops saying it would boost the fight against militants who have devastated some districts of northern province Cabo Delgado, since October 2017.