Harare (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe will contribute a total of 304 non-combat troops to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force deployment in Mozambique, a top government official said on Thursday.
SADC has agreed to collectively send troops to Mozambique to help it ward off an Islamic rebel insurgency in the north east of the country which has killed hundreds and displaced thousands others in the last two years.
In a statement, Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri- Kashiri said while other SADC countries had pledged to supply combat troops, Zimbabwe will deploy non-combat forces which will be engaged in training the Mozambican Armed Forces to “enhance their capability to combat terrorism.”
“Zimbabwe’s pledge to the SADC standby Force Mission in Mozambique is as follows; a training team comprising three hundred and three instructors to train one infantry battalion size unit at a time,” she said.
“One specialist officer to the coordinating mechanism of the SADC Standby Force headquarters in Maputo.”
Muchinguri-Kashiri said Zimbabwe’s deployment was still pending the signing of a Status Force Agreement pertaining to the training of Mozambican troops.
At the moment, a Status Force Agreement pertaining to the deployment of combat troops only has been signed with combat troops from South Africa and Botswana already deploying to Mozambique.
A Status Force Agreement is an accord which allows foreign troops to deploy into a host country.
“Zimbabwe is awaiting the signing of the Status Force Agreement after which the Zimbabwe training continent will be sent to Mozambique. Once the training team is dispatched, Parliament will be informed accordingly in terms of section 214 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” she said.
She said Zimbabwe’s impending deployment to Mozambique was in terms of section 213(1) (a) and subsection 213 (3) of the Constitution which state that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has authority to deploy the Defence Forces outside Zimbabwe for reasons including defending the territorial integrity of a foreign country.
“This issue is no doubt of great importance to Zimbabwe considering our proximity to and warm relations with Mozambique and is also critical to the peace, security and stability of the entire SADC region.”
The growing crisis in Mozambique – which festered from 2017 but grabbed international attention in 2020 – has resulted in the deaths of at least 2,800 people and the displacement of about 800,00 others.
The economic and social cost to the country has also been enormous, prompting United Nations agencies to call for swift action to end the conflict.
Over the past three years, the armed insurgents have launched dozens of attacks across Cabo Delgado, most recently pillaging the town of Palma which has led to delays in the implementation of the multi-billion dollar gas projects in that region.