By Never Kadungure | Harare Bureau |
With a growing number of protests rocking Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime on Thursday wheeled out the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Commander Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda to make threats against protestors.
In an interview with the state owned media, Sibanda said the army was ready to deal with people who were organising protests against the government using social media. Popular movements mobilising demonstrators include #Tajamuka, #ThisFlag and #ThisGown.
Ahead of the 36th Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day commemorations on Tuesday, Lt-Gen Sibanda said “We are already dealing with these threats. As an army, at our institutions of training, we are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons — not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology — are being used to mobilise people to do the wrong things.
“We will be equal to the task when the time comes. The most important function, as outlined in the Constitution is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, national security, territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution.”
“To deal with the important task of protecting Zimbabwe, we have to organise and train the army. We do not train or organise when there is war going on. We prepare and plan for wars before they happen. The major task we are undertaking now is that of training and preparing the army for whatever eventuality the country might face.”
Over the past fews months Zimbabwe has been on the verge of implosion with dozens of protests by angry citizens unhappy with the deteriorating political and economic situation.
It started with violent protests at the Beitbridge Border over the banning of certain imports, before transport operators in Harare demonstrated against harassment by police at roadblocks. Civil servants led by their unions then went on strike and joined a successful shutdown. Since then there have been protests by the opposition, unemployed graduates and a resistance march against the introduction of bond notes.
Turning to threats posed by Mozambique’s rebel movement, Renamo, Lt-Gen Sibanda said “We are not undertaking any specific operations against Renamo but we continue with border control operations and in the process monitor what is happening on our borders with Mozambique and those countries neighbouring us,” he said.
“This is part of our support to civil power. On plans to deploy, (Defence) Minister (Sydney Sekeramayi) and Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander (General Constantino Chiwenga) have made pronouncements on the situation in Mozambique and our stance suffice to say we continue to monitor that situation and prepare ourselves in the event that Renamo crosses the border. We will certainly be in a position to deal with that situation.”
On the future of the ZNA, he said: “I would like to see an army that is well provided for that is in terms of personal kit for the troops, equipment for them to undertake their tasks. I would like to see an army that is more effective and efficient than we are right now, an army respected by both friend and foe.” Nehanda Radio