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Mozambique – No return to war

The National Resistance of Mozambique (Renamo) has returned to the bush, but this does not mean a return to war. Nor do we see any threat to regional economies. Renamo – the spawn of colonial Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa as a bulwark against ‘communists and terrorists’ such as the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo) and the African National Congress (ANC) – has long since outlived its usefulness. Its collapsing appeal to Mozambique voters and internal ructions and splits have now seen the organisation stumble into its final convulsions. Those convulsions could see more violence as the remnants of Renamo fight for some relevance but apart from sporadic attacks in its former northern and central Mozambique strongholds the organisation poses no political or military threat. Local sources with high level intelligence access say that the number of Renamo members under arms is less than 500 and these lack discipline, training and motivation and have more in common with bandits than with any formal military force.

South Africa does not regard RENAMO as any posing any kind of threat to stability in Mozambique and even less in the region.

The red line conclusion is that recent events including:

  • The raid on the so-called Renamo ‘base’ by the Mozambique military
  • Several attacks by Renamo dissidents on central Mozambique police stations
  • The threat (it is just a threat as Renamo spokespersons have no authority to suspend or terminate agreements with international standing) to walk away from the 1992 Peace Accord
  • Concerns that the rag-tag bandits could pose some kind of economic threat to Zimbabwe

Will have no long-term impact and RENAMO represents no serious military threat.

Renamo has 51 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Assembly of the Republic and so far they have not stated any intention to resign, though some action here is a possibility. An equal possibility is that the MPs and other more legitimate elements of Renamo will finally abandon the movement’s deluded leader, Afonso Dhlakama. The idea of some form of concentrated joint military action by Mozambique and its neighbours against Renamo are flying around but that would be a little like killing a fly with a Cruise missile. As regards possible business and investment, the following is relevant – Renamo has the potential to create short-term bandit style activity in some isolated spots in the central and northern regions of the country but this does not pose a serious long-term threat to overall political stability and it poses no serious threat to Mozambique’s ports or its transport system. Any disruptions Renamo could muster would be temporary.

Why do we care? Events like those of the past weeks have reoccurred several times over the past few years – this time is no different except for the fact that the government seems to have finally lost patience with Renamo. Nothing more dramatic is likely. The Peace Deal of 1992 is not a real issue – Renamo has no capability to take any actions military or otherwise that would make any difference, so “terminating” the peace deal is a meaningless gesture. The 51 Renamo MPs may not be so willing to give up the benefits of Parliament and go into the bush to fight an unwinnable war. They may defect in mass and further weaken the Renamo leadership.

Analyst: Gary van Staden

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