Border communities wary of volatile Mozambique

MUTARE - Manicaland's border communities, who have previously suffered attacks from Mozambican Renamo bandits, are on edge as the unpopular Mozambique opposition party continues to spoil for a return to hostilities after a two- decade hiatus.

Chiefs Ngorima and Mutasa in Manicaland have since October last year convened meetings to warn their subjects to be wary of interactions with their Mozambican neighbours as Renamo toys with the idea of returning to war.

Chief Mutasa has even approached the army to deploy along the Mozambican border and has passed a prohibition order against locals crossing the porous border or entertaining those who cross over from Mozambique.

Chief Mutasa’s son Fanuel Mutasa said at some point they had received news that Renamo bandits intended to infiltrate the country through Honde Valley.

Catharine Matsanamure from Rusitu in Chimanimani says local traditional leaders have since warned against hiring Mozambicans as domestic workers for fear of infiltration by Renamo sympathisers.

Matsanamure said locals feared that they will be subjected to reprisal attacks if Zimbabwe moved in to support its strategic neighbour as happened in the early 1980s when Renamo bandits attacked Zimbabweans living along the border. The Zimbabwean army helped crush Renamo under the guise of protecting the Feruka Oil pipeline.

“We hear that they will attack us the moment our soldiers join the conflict on Frelimo’s side,” Matsanamure said. Frelimo is Mozambique’s ruling party and enjoys warm relations with Zimbabwe.

Renamo has maintained a private army since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992 and apparently enjoys more support among shona speaking Mozambicans, according to locals.

Although the situation remains tense in the wake of nine civilians and four security personnel killed in the past two weeks in Mozambique, most Zimbabweans are oblivious to the risk of travelling into the country in the absence of any government warnings.

Maxwell Mukodza, a transporter in Mutare, says the flow of Zimbabwean travellers into the country has not been affected by the recent reports of escalation of conflict. - Bernard Chiketo

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