Zim to get the 'Ninjas'?
A South African military analyst has warned that the rumoured imminent deployment of 3 000 Angolan police officers to Zimbabwe could backfire on the Mugabe government if the salaries of Zimbabwean security forces are not increased.
Over the past few months there have been increasing reports of desertions by Zimbabwean security force members who are dissatisfied with low pay.
Henri Boshoff, a military analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, said the Zimbabwean police and military might not react positively to the arrival of foreign reinforcements. “The police and military can say ‘no ways’—if Zimbabwe doesn’t increase salaries, the security forces could align themselves with the people [against the Angolans]. It is a big risk that the Angolans would be taking.”
After dismissing claims that the Angolans would be reinforcing the Zimbabwean police as “ridiculous”, Zimbabwean police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said that an undisclosed number of Angolan police officers would be “coming to Zimbabwe for training programmes” as part of a “protocol agreement” signed by the Angolan and Zimbab- wean ministers of home affairs last week. He said, “We don’t have the capacity to host 3 500 of them,” adding that the officers’ arrival in Zimbabwe would be staggered.
The confirmation follows a visit last week to Harare by the Angolan Minister of Home Affairs, Roberto Monteiro, who held talks with his Zimbab- wean counterpart, Kembi Mohadi.
Mohadi this week denied rumours that 3 000 Angolan police officers were being deployed to reinforce the beleaguered Zimbabwean police, but he did confirm that they would be arriving in Zimbabwe from April 1 “for training”.
“I cannot say how many of the [Angolan] police will come here, but they are only coming on an exchange programme that will also see our own officers going to Angola in the near future,” he told Zimonline, adding that such programmes were not a new initiative.
Units of Angola’s crack paramilitary police force, commonly known as the “Ninjas”, were most recently deployed to Kinshasa during the Democractic Republic of Congo’s six-month electoral period.
The Ninjas were deployed intermittently to operate alongside the Congolese police force’s rapid intervention force. Their presence served as an effective deterrent in many instances of protest, because their ruthless tactics are feared.
Boshoff says it is highly unusual that such large numbers of troops would be sent for training.
“There has been speculation about the 3 000. Normally, you send 300 or so for training. If there are 3 000, there is another reason,” he explained.
He added that, if Angolans are being deployed to reinforce the Zimbabwean police, it would indicate that the Zimbabwean government has lost confidence in its own police and military.
“Do they not have trust in their police any more, or are they worried about capacity if the situation moves into full-scale public disorder?”
Sources in Portugal told the Mail & Guardian that Angolan Foreign Minister JoÃ£o Bernardo Miranda, who was in Portugal this week, met his Portuguese counterpart to discuss Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s participation in the December EU summit, to be hosted by Portugal. The EU has imposed a travel ban on Mugabe and other members of his regime.
In a statement to the press, Miranda said: “It is in difficult moments that friends must help one another.”