5 November 1999

Zimbabwe Troops In Angola

Harare — Zimbabwe has more than 2 000 combat troops, including 20 military intelligence officers, deployed in Angola whose presence has helped the Angolan army to overrun Jonas Savimbi's strongholds, according to reports reaching the Zimbabwe Independent.

Although Defence Forces spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye denied that Zimbabwe had deployed any troops in Angola, the Independent understands that 2 000 troops, who were initially based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had been transferred to Angola.

The troops, from a crack unit with its base at 1 Commando Barracks in Cran- borne, commanded by Brigadier General Kachana, were moved into Angola about four months ago. The combat troops were supported by 20 officers from the Zimbabwe Intelligence Corps (ZIC), also based at Cranborne.

The troop positions vacated in the DRC were taken over by new recruits enlisted and trained earlier this year at the All Arms Battle School in Nyanga, and at a training camp in Bulawayo. Following the deployment a further 2 000 recruits are currently being trained, also for possible deployment to the DRC.

"The battle-hardened soldiers were moved from the DRC to Angola to spearhead the onslaught," said a military source. "The element of surprise is what won us the day as the Unita rebels were not expecting the tactical expertise and cutting-edge fighting skills honed in the DRC jungles that our troops unleashed on them.

"In fact, our soldiers actually wanted to capture Savimbi physically, just to show him that he is not a military powerhouse. I cannot say that the mission is over yet," the source said.

Savimbi is reported to have deserted his highland stronghold and sought refuge in Uganda. Uganda is sponsoring rebels who are trying to topple the government of Laurent Kabila in the DRC. The rebels were only repelled when Zimbabwe, leading a coalition of southern African states' forces, intervened last August.

According to Diye, the Angolan forces' recent advances and successes against Unita rebels were very commendable.

"The offensive has been solely conducted by the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) without any human resources input from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces or the Sadc Allied Forces headquartered in Kinshasa," he said. "It has been a purely internal operation by the Angolans themselves."

The military source said Zimbabwe utilised heavy weaponry it had recently acquired from North Korea and China in recent engagements in Angola.

Asked if they had bought military hardware worth $3,1 billion from the Koreans and Chinese, the ZDF spokesman said: "We did not acquire any military hardware from Korea and China worth $3,6 billion, as alluded (to) in your enquiry."

He did not comment on the discrepancy in the figures.

"We appreciate very much your efforts to seek the necessary clarifications on media rumours of this nature," Diye said.

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