By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |
An unconfirmed number of Zimbabwean soldiers were caught up in a shoot-out with Renamo rebels, according to a report coming from Mozambique.
“A bus full of Zimbabwean soldiers was attacked by Renamo (rebels) on their way to Gorongosa to help the Mozambican government.
“The bus was attacked at Mesica turn off. Many deaths (occurred),” said the source in a message to Nehanda Radio.
Renamo is the rebel movement that has been engaged in a series of battles with Mozambique’s Frelimo government since 2013 over power sharing and alleged poor governance.
The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore could not be drawn to comment on the report.
“We don’t comment on matters like that over the phone,” said Makotore.
Questions sent to his email had not been responded to by the time of going to print.
The leader of Renamo, Alfonso Dhlakama, this week made a startling revelation to journalists via a telephone news conference that Zimbabwean soldiers were part of the military “mercenaries” from the continent and beyond that were helping the Frelimo government repel his fighters.
He said other soldiers had been deployed from Angola, China and Tanzania amid an alleged fresh bout of attacks against his base in a forest in Gorongosa.
In the latest onslaught, Dhlakama said, the combined troops had deployed 12 armoured vehicles and scores of soldiers and accused them of also attacking civilians and unspecified private institutions, mostly along the main roads in central Mozambique.
Mozambican security spokesperson, Inacio Dina, denied the claims that the Frelimo government had launched new attacks or hired mercenaries against the rebels.
Government and Renamo are however working to resume talks to end the battles after Dhlakama left government in protest over skewed appointments he said favoured the ruling party.
They began preparations to have Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi meet with Dhlakama for the resumption of peace negotiations abandoned last year.
Since 2013, tensions have risen and Renamo fighters have again taken up arms in a battle that it says is against a Frelimo elite that has enriched itself at the expense of the country.
The clashes have intensified in recent months following Dhlakama’s declaration in December that he would take power in six of the country’s 11 provinces.
The Zimbabwean government has in the recent past denied that it had deployed troops to Mozambique to repel the rebels.
However, it helped the Renamo government in a civil war that lasted many years in the past.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has also unilaterally sent troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a move that marked the advent of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in the late 1990s. Nehanda Radio