Bernard Chiketo 12 February 2017
CHIPINGE – Zimbabwe and Mozambique are both suffering rising casualties
and cattle rustling during skirmishes along their border in an area
plagued by conflict over scarce resources, officials and villagers say.
The neighbouring countries accuse each other of triggering clashes taking
place along the central stretch of their 1 000km frontier, highlighting
persisting tension over an unresolved dispute that has seen Renamo – which
is also the official opposition in Mozambique – launching a low-level
guerrilla campaign against the ruling Frelimo government, that has spilled
The low intensity war in Mozambique, which has killed hundreds of people,
is taking its toll on Zimbabwe’s eastern highlands and the south eastern
plateau, despite President Robert Mugabe’s vow to stop the hostilities
with Afonso Dhlakama’s Renamo armed bandits – who have resorted to cattle
rustling from Manicaland villagers to feed its fighters and raise funds
after the Mozambique army pushed it out of cities.
And as cattle die of starvation due to drought, opportunists are also
mounting night-time raids to replace lost stock from the neighbouring
Angry locals have also begun raiding Mozambican cattle pens, inviting
The fighting along the border has also left dozens of houses and various
food stores burned and looted, plus dozens of herds of cattle stolen.
Mugabe has said he wants to stop cattle rustling along the border, at a
time Mozambique refugees have been allowed to blend into border
communities, instead of refugee camps.
Addressing his Zanu PF supporters in Dande, a northern border community at
the end of last year, Mugabe said he had received reports of trans-border
“Let us forge good relations with those beyond the border in Tete. I hear
that you take each other’s cattle.
“Leave people’s cattle alone. Are there no cattle here? I thought they
were the ones who should have been after our cattle. What is happening?
Let’s stop that practice,” Mugabe said.
David Mandimutsira, a cattle trader, said fighters had stolen a 50-strong
herd from him and another herd from his brother.
He said the military had failed to stop the raids, with soldiers running
into the bush the moment they came under fire.
South of Dande along the border in Chipinge, furious locals are crossing
the border to steal cattle, confirmed an opposition Member of Parliament.
“There are some known individuals who are going into Mozambique to steal
cattle,” Musikavanhu MDC MP Prosper Mutseyami said.
When about 50 cattle were stolen from Zimbabwean small farmers and driven
across the border in Chipinge in December, Mugabe’s deputy Emmerson
Mnangagwa reacted by sending in the army.
Acting president then, Mnangagwa told Parliament that some of the cattle
had been recovered.
“Some people have been invited to identify their cattle,” he said.
Mnangagwa said provincial security leaders of both countries were
constantly meeting to discuss the escalation of cross border incidents and
According to a December 10 police intelligence brief from Chisumbanje
Police Station, the cattle were stolen by “15 suspected Mozambican
soldiers armed with AK 47 rifles”.
When police visited the Zamuchiya area where the cattle were seized, they
saw “five suspected Mozambican soldiers and some civilians with machetes
And there have been rising killings. Infact, it was the abduction of a man
from his village, who was later killed in Mozambique, which prompted
Mnangagwa to deploy the army along the border.
Shockingly, his identity was never established. But investigations by the
Daily News on Sunday revealed he was many of Mozambican refugees moving in
and settling along the border.
Recently, two suspect Mozambican soldiers and 25 men armed with bows and
arrows crossed the border into Nyanga, rounding up four refugees and their
cattle from Nyamutenha village, ward 11, where they had settled, locals
They were reportedly taken to Nyabutu camp. Their fate remains unknown.
Some of the Mozambicans are committing atrocities, then fleeing their
homes to settle here as refugees, while others are driven out of their
But in both cases, they do not sit back but organise cross-border revenge
attacks, investigations revealed.
“We are in no way screening these immigrants… (we are just) allowing
them to settle among ordinary villagers, risking their safety,” a
Mapungwana village head who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
“Our government is messing up its refugee processing protocol and it may
cost the nation its peace.”
Chipinge South Zanu PF MP Enock Porusingazi agrees that the refugees need
to be placed in appropriate facilities for their safety and the
preservation of peace.
“Once a person flees from war or terror, he is classified a refugee and
should be quarantined in a camp for safety and protection,” Porusingazi
But until Zimbabwe reins in cattle rustling and implements appropriate
refugee handling procedures, it remains on the brink of being sucked into
But to keep itself from its strategic neighbour’s internal conflict,
Zimbabwe will need to carefully monitor activities along the long border
and not just the political impasse between Frelimo and Renamo.