This was not a UN mission as claimed by one squadron leader Simon Matingwina. Matingwina also wrongly stated that Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (Osleg), in which Mugabe sent thousands of troops to help DRC leader Laurent Kabila, without Zimbabwean parliamentary approval, was a UN mission.
In fact the UN strongly condemned Zimbabwe’s presence in the Great Lakes country and – in a damning report – named defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and then ZDF commander Vitalis Zvinavashe as masterminds of a complex scheme to loot the country’s diamonds and timber.
Zimbabwean soldiers were ordered to leave DRC to pave way for peace in 2003 but highly placed military sources claim there are still some Zimbabwean soldiers posing as private security guards protecting the business interests of senior Zanu (PF) officials.
Ordered to leave
Osleg was transformed into a private mining concern once fronted by Billy Rautenbach, who was later unceremoniously ordered to leave Congo’s lucrative mining industry after Joseph Kabila accused him of corruption. Rautenbach’s firm, Sabot is now involved in transporting the bomb-making material tantlite from DRC to South Africa via Zimbabwe.
In one of the publicity documents, ZDF actually admits that it was one of the ‘belligerents’ in the Mozambique conflict and states that it was unusual for the UN to then invite them to be among the peacekeepers at the end of the lengthy civil war.
Interestingly, at the end of the Mozambique ‘peace enforcement’ campaign in December 1992, the ZNA was co-opted into the UN Operation in Mozambique (UNOMOZ), an operation that immediately followed the end of hostilities in spite of the fact that the force had been a belligerent in the conflict, one of the documents says.
The document is supposed to give a history of Zimbabwe’s UN peacekeeping operations but a number of paragraphs are cleverly inserted to make it sound as if Osleg was a UN mission when it was not.
Planes shot down
The document also lies that Zimbabwe did not lose much in DRC. In fact, it was the DRC war that depleted Zimbabwe’s once formidable air power after planes were shot down. An unknown number of soldiers died while many others are reported as ‘missing and presumed dead’.
Anguished widows are being paid but the fate of their husbands has not been officially disclosed to them. Zimbabwe lost one of it’s most famous commanders, Colonel Gumbo, in the DRC war after his helicopter was downed by marauding Banyamulenge rebels.
Returning soldiers recount horrific tales of survival in DRC jungles after they were abandoned by their masters. Many had to walk for hundreds of kilometres to reach the Zambian border, where they faced other dangers: lions and other deadly wild animals in border parks. One surviving soldier interviewed by this reporter said he had to fake insanity in order to leave the army after they abandoned him in DRC.
Yet the ZDF claims: Operating more than 2000 kilometres from home, the ZDF silenced it’s detractors, who thought the force was going to sink men and equipment in the vast Great Lakes country. The ZDF emerged triumphant in the campaign…
In Mozambique, Brigadier-General Paradzai Zimhondi was accused of involvement in killing elephants and selling their tusks on the black market in violation of UN rules on protected species. However, according to a retired army major, who has written yet unpublished memoirs, Zimbabwe’s inexperienced 6th brigade, which has now been disbanded, was sent packing by Renamo fighters experienced in jungle warfare.
The major said the Zimbabweans were at a disadvantage as Frelimo forces they were helping were poorly equipped and many were known to fight for Renamo at weekends.