SIGNS of a civil war breaking out in neighbouring Mozambique have unsettled Zimbabwe's eastern border districts from Mukumbura in the north to Chipinge in the south, sending shockwaves across a country also struggling with its own socio-economic problems.
Dormant since October 1992 when Mozambique's ruling Mozambique Liberation Front and the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) rebels signed a truce, the animosities were rekindled last week when attacks on police and civilians resurfaced in central Sofala province.
Co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, however, told The Financial Gazette this week that as long as the situation has not yet deteriorated into an actual civil war his ministry would simply monitor the situation.
"Until such a time that we are told there is such a need we will act accordingly," he said.
Villagers along Zimbabwe's border with Mozambique are, however, panicking as they recall past Renamo atrocities that broke out soon after independence in 1980 until 1992 when the civil war ended.
In Manicaland's Chipinge district, reports reaching The Financial Gazette indicate that villagers have already started receiving Mozambican nationals who are fleeing their homes fearing the situation could deteriorate further.
The Mozambicans are reportedly streaming into Zimbabwe as refugees at Mupengo from Madeira and Muxungue, towns where four Mozambican police officers were killed last Thursday in a gun battle with Renamo rebels.
At the height of the Renamo insurgency in 1990 some 1,7 million Mozambicans sought refuge in neighbouring countries including Zimbabwe which accommodated an estimated 150 000 of that number.
With Mozambique currently hosting 13 000 refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, according the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the resurgence of Renamo threatens to exert fresh pressures on that country including Zimbabwe which is also presently hosting 5 800 refugees and asylum-seekers from the Great Lakes region.
In Chimanimani district, neighbouring Chipinge, rumours awash that certain foreign interests were disguising themselves as RENAMO bandits in order to destabilise Zimbabwe's rich diamond fields in Marange communal lands.
With anything possible in a rebel war such a likelihood cannot be ruled out especially in view of the fact that the Renamo outfit was born out of a 1970s attempt by apartheid South Africa and the late Ian Smith's Rhodesian regime to try and destabilise guerilla fighters based in Mozambique who were fighting to liberate Zimbabwe. The rebels, however, continued to cause mayhem in Mozambique well after Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 with the bandits' activities spilling into Zimbabwe's eastern border districts.
Further north in Mudzi District, the news of a Renamo insurgency is still filtering in but the situation is still calm although villagers hope and pray that the situation does not escalate into a full scale civil war.
An escalation of violence in Mozambique would have a serious domino effect on Zimbabwe's shaky economy. The landlocked country is currently importing 90 percent of its fuel requirements through Mozambique via the 287-km Beira-Feruka oil pipeline.
Last year, the country imported 1,4 billion litres of fuel through the pipeline which has registered a 25 percent increase on the previous year in its usage after the Zimbabwe government imposed a hefty road levy on fuel importation by road.
Mozambique is also now home to a significant number of Zimbabwean nationals who left the country as economic refugees and are now resident or working in that country.
For Mozambique, the economic losses would be far more devastating after the country so far managed to court a huge pool of foreign investors.
Despite 54 percent of the population still poor, the country's economic growth has been robust since the end of hostilities in 1992, achieving as much as eight percent annual growth rate. In 2011, the country attracted US974,5 million worth of foreign direct investment (FDI).