By Itai Mushekwe
President Robert Mugabe’s military henchmen have reportedly signed an arms trade agreement worth millions of dollars with North Korea, in return for allowing Pyongyang access to Zimbabwe’s controversial Kanyemba district, which has sparked a uranium mining race pitting Iran and other powers, Nehanda Radio has been told.
Kanyemba district is about 160 miles north of the capital, and is believed to be holding significant uranium reserves, first discovered in the 1970s by German prospectors, but never exploited due to low world prices at the time.
Several other countries have sought the rights to mine Zimbabwe’s untapped uranium deposits, and these include Russia, China and a failed bid by neighbouring South Africa and Namibia, as they scramble for the Yellow cake which is a key ingredient needed for the production of nuclear bombs.
Harare was recently forced to refute allegations, of a similar deal with Iran first reported by this reporter in 2010, in which Tehran is hunting for uranium, in return for supplying Mugabe with fuel, so as to progress the expansion of its contentious nuclear programme.
Some metallurgists, maintain that the Kanyemba uranium reserves are very large in quantity, and estimate based on initial exploration of the fields that, at least 450,000 tonnes of uranium ore is available, with about 20,000 tonnes being extractable uranium.
Mugabe has been reeling under an arms embargo imposed by Britain and the European Union for over a decade, and has resorted to sanctions busting by courting weapons from Beijing, Russia and now Pyongyang amid reports that, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has began a weapons modernisation drive.
The disclosure, which will certainly cause anxiety among Western nations has been made by a “disgruntled” army officer who claims to have a dossier on Zimbabwe’s Military Intelligence Unit (MIU) covert operations.
MIU is Mugabe’s little known but spooky intelligence arm, believed to be the brains behind homeland military operations meant to preserve the status quo. Some of the operations to it’s name include “Operation No Return” or Hakudzokwi in the native Shona language launched in 2006 by the army to massacre hundreds of artisanal diamond miners, in Marange, situated 90km south west of Mutare.
MIU was instrumental in enabling government to seize control of the £800 billion diamond fields, which are now a high level security zone housing Chinese mining companies, said the army source.
There is is growing suspicion from many Western intelligence services, that North Korea is moving closer to mastering the ability to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile, capable of striking some world capitals although, their nuclear technology is thought to have a low reliability.
A senior Zanu PF Politburo member, this week confirmed the North Korea arms for uranium pact, with Mugabe saying:
“North Korea has always been an ally of this country since the liberation struggle days against white minority rule. They have trained our soldiers, and now the press acts as if it’s a discovery that this deal exists. Chinorwadza ipapo chii? Inga nyika dzose dzinotengeresana zvombowani”
(What is paining about the issue? Is is not a fact that all nations buy weapons from one another).
A new assessment done by Washington’s Pentagon intelligence body, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in March, has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence” that, Pyongyang has learned the craft of making a nuclear weapon enough to be delivered by means of a ballistic missile.
The report titled: “Dynamic Threat Assessment 8099: North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program” reads as thus, in Its executive summary: “D.I.A. assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however the reliability will be low.”
“The multi-million dollar deal has been in motion, since May 2009,” said the military officer. ” The President of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Kim Yong Nam, came to Harare at the time, together with his military generals and top Intelligence chiefs, where they met Mugabe and his military brass at the Zanu PF headquarters.
It was agreed that Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), would receive arms and ammunition of unspecified quantities. According to the dossier, on MIU activities between 2006-2012, large amounts of North Korea’s new ‘Type 58’ assault rifles, are due for delivery once a new government without the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is in place.
They was ice on the arms deal, because there was no certainty whether Zanu PF would retain power, but the coast is now clear.”
The President of the Democratic of Congo, Joseph Kabila is said to be a player in the affair, due to the involvement of his family mining company, Cosleg, which is jointly owned by the Zimbabwe military elite. Cosleg, is thought to be prepared, to becoming a conduit for the smuggling of uranium ore, once Pyongyang begins extraction activities in Kanyemba, army sources said.
Cosleg has been implicated in a report done, by the United Nations (UN) in 2002 in the illict dealing of diamonds, done in high secrecy in Congo. The report also indentifies many senior officials in Mugabe’s government, as stakeholders in the shadowy company, such as new Justice minister and presidential aspirant, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sydney Sekeramayi, who has been minister of the secret service during Harare’s coalition government with former premiere, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Other officials named are: The late Air Commodore, Mike Karakadzai, who was declared a national hero and buried last month in Harare, and Brigadier General Sibusiso Busi Moyo.
Western diplomats, have raised serious concern about the uranium deal with Pyongyang, and said this could be a breach of UN sanctions. “Any allegations that uranium could be provided to North Korea in return for arms are very concerning. This could be in breach of UN sanctions on DPRK,” said one Ambassador spokesperson close to the European Union (EU).
“The DPRK has demonstrated a willingness to sell arms to states worldwide in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. We assess that the income generated from DPRK arms sales is likely to be used to help fund the development of its indigenous nuclear, missile and weapons programmes, supporting a vicious proliferation cycle. It is the duty of all UN Member States to meet their UN obligations.”
North Korea is loathed in Zimbabwe, for its role in the training of soldiers from the Fifth Brigade regiment, who were involved in the slaughter of about 20 000 innocent civilians in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s.
The barbarous military clampdown, was code-named Gukurahundi, or “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”. In some cases, surviving relatives of victims, were forced to dance on their fresh graves, while being forced to sing war-time Shona songs, in a region where Ndebele, the country’s second language is spoken.