HARARE, Zimbabwe – A political science student from the University of Zimbabwe, Jethro Ngara, sees doom and gloom as his country dares to wade into Mozambique’s war on terror.
Ngara, 25, said he is too young to die and fears particularly for his parents who are domiciled along the eastern border town of Mutare which is close to Mozambique where terrorists have killed hundreds of Mozambicans.
Terrorism fears grip Zimbabweans
For Ngara, Zimbabwe’s bid to step in to help Mozambique means disaster for the poor African nation.
“Terrorists will have good reasons to invade Zimbabwe especially from the town of Mutare and spread mayhem here. We are inviting terrorism upon ourselves,” Ngara told Anadolu Agency.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa made calls earlier this month to have soldiers deployed to neighboring Mozambique to crush terrorists in that country.
Taking to Twitter after militants beheaded more than 50 people in the northern part of Mozambique during attacks on several villages, the strongman said: “These acts of barbarity must be stamped out wherever they are found.”
But ordinary Zimbabweans like Miriam Sithole, 34, from Chipinge, another eastern town which is close to Mozambique, is against the idea of rescuing its neighbor from terror attacks.
“I’m afraid personally because if you look where I live, it will be easier for terrorists to encroach into my area while fighting with our soldiers,” Sithole told Anadolu Agency. “I don’t want war here.”
Nothing sinister helping a neighbor
But Simba Mugidi, 43, a high school history teacher in Harare, feels Zimbabwe has nothing to fear if it wants to help its neighbor put down terror attacks.
“If by any chance, our soldiers will go to help Mozambique fight terrorism, that would be fair and fine, as the area they will be operating in is away from home and the danger of Islamic attacks on Zimbabwe is slight,” Mugidi told Anadolu Agency.
The terrorists at the center of the controversy in Mozambique are operating in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, which is over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away from Harare.
But last month, terrorists known to target Mozambique, carried their war across the border into Tanzania, where they beheaded 20 people in a terror onslaught unleashed against Kitaya in the Mtwara province near the border with the Cabo Delgado district.
It unsettled many Zimbabweans like Sithole.
Civil society activists fear terrorism
Civil society activists like Claris Madhuku — who heads the Platform for Youth Development, which lobbies for democracy in the southern African nation — is shaken by Zimbabwe’s intensions to step into Mozambique’s war against terror.
“We should be very afraid by haste decisions our leaders make on our behalf; this is very dangerous; fighting terrorism is not a walk in the park and our country should expect to see terrorists invading this poor country from any point; terrorists have no notice nor formula,” Madhuku told Anadolu Agency.
Ruling party backers unnerved by war on terror
Yet only backers of the governing Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front party (Zanu-PF) are seeing nothing amiss in having the military sent to Mozambique to quell terrorism.
Taurai Kandishaya, a known Zanu-PF die-hard supporter, said: “Mozambique is a [Southern African Development Community member] state and as Zimbabwe we always stand together in solidarity with our neighbor.”
Now, as Zimbabwe has clearly made its intensions known, Kandishaya said: “The Zimbabwe-Mozambique relations date back to the days of the liberation struggle here when Mozambique sheltered our fighters.”
So, to Kandishaya, nothing is amiss about Zimbabwe’s intentions even as Zimbabweans like Sithole and Ngara are jittery.
Opposition’s mixed views on war against terror
Obey Sithole, the Youth Assembly chairperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, even as he has reservations, sees nothing wrong in the deployment of Zimbabwe’s military to fend off terrorists in Mozambique.
“It makes sense for Zimbabwe to intervene on issues to do with Mozambique. One of the major reasons is to do with the Port of Beira which stands to benefit Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes through imports,” Obey told Anadolu Agency.
But, again he said: “Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is in a state of economic collapse and the intervention is likely to go beyond the interests of peace-keeping, but more to do with illegal siphoning of resources in the pockets of the few ruling elites.”
“This happened in the past and some emerged wealthy and surely today cannot be an exception,” Obey added.
Zimbabwe deployed soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998 to rescue the government of Laurent Kabila from a rebel onslaught, and high-ranking officials from the Zimbabwean government, including army generals, were reported to have amassed quick riches by smuggling minerals from the DRC.
A 2004 UN report fingered Mnangagwa, then-the speaker of the parliament, as one of many officials who looted diamonds and precious minerals from the war-ravaged DRC.
Mnangagwa was accused of facilitating diamond smuggling from the DRC via Harare International Airport to final destinations although he denied the accusations.
But now, even if Mnangagwa’s regime may have an ulterior motive to step into the war against terror in Mozambique, Zimbabweans like Ngara are more afraid of the spilling of terrorism into their nation.
“Whatever our leaders aim to gain from the war against terror in Mozambique at their individual levels, personally I fear the Islamists may pounce on us as a country and cause bloodshed,” said Ngara.