“This is war and some Zimbabwean troops may be killed in the conflict. As a country, we should not deliberately create more widows and orphans,” party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora told The Zimbabwean.
He said the party would make formal protests using different forums. “As partners in the GNU we were not consulted before the deployment was given a go ahead. Zanu (PF) heads the defence portfolio and unfortunately unilaterally decided to send our soldiers to join fight in the DRC. As MDC we would have opted for a diplomatic approach to the DRC crisis. Since M23 troops agreed to pull out of Goma, it clearly showed that a negotiated settlement was the way forward.
Warring parties in the DRC conflict should have been given the opportunity to dialogue, before Zimbabwe and other countries sent in troops,” added Mwonzora. Despite Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai holding executive powers in the Government of National Unity, Defence Minister and Zanu (PF) stalwart Emmerson Mnangagwa says the premier is of no consequence in matters such as the deployment of troops. Technically the Prime Minister is in charge of all cabinet ministries and Mnangagwa is his subordinate.
Commenting on whether Tsvangirai and the MDC had been consulted when Zimbabwe recently agreed to send troops to the DRC to fend off a military uprising against President Joseph Kabila, Mnangagwa told The Zimbabwean that the PM was irrelevant.
“You are crazy. Why should we consult the Prime Minister? Who is he in this matter? The decision to deploy troops in the DRC was made by SADC,” fumed Mnangagwa when he returned a missed call from one of our reporters.
Attempts to press him on the implementation of the deployment process were futile as he hung up. Several other calls went unanswered.
This month SADC leaders, at an extraordinary meeting of Heads of State and Government held in Tanzania, decided to deploy 4,000 troops as part of a peace keeping mission in the war-torn Eastern Congo. M23 rebels, believed to have backing from Rwanda, have launched a fierce offensive against Kabila.
In 1998, Mugabe deployed soldiers to rescue the government of Laurent Kabila without consulting Parliament. He fell out of favour with most of his regional counterparts, notably the then South African President, Nelson Mandela, who preferred a peaceful solution to the insurgency.
He was also accused of bending to demands by his service chiefs to unilaterally send in the army so that they could take advantage of the war to smuggle minerals from that country’s vast deposits.
A UN report in the mid-2000s indicated that massive looking took place by a syndicate that also involved Far East tycoons such as Oman’s Muhammad al Shanfari who owns Oryx House in Zimbabwe. There were also unconfirmed reports that Zimbabwean cabinet ministers escorted planeloads of smuggled minerals that flew through Zimbabwe.
The acting spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Army, Major Alec Zuva, told The Zimbabwean that the modalities regarding the deployment of troops were the “prerogative of the Head of State, Mugabe”.
“I am sure you are aware that the decision to deploy troops was made by SADC Heads of State and Government and in Zimbabwe, there is only one Head of State. So the issue of consultations does not apply here. It is up to the President to decide,” said Zuva.
MDC-N President, Welshman Ncube said that even though deployment of troops was a decision of SADC, Mugabe was bound to consult his coalition partners before sending soldiers to the DRC.
“The President cannot go ahead without discussion over the issue. It should not be assumed that no consultation will take place. I believe there will be consultations over the issue,” said Ncube.