Chipinge – A traditional chief living near Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique claims Mozambican villagers are fleeing across the border to escape attacks by Renamo rebels.
In the first reports this year of Mozambican villagers seeking refuge in Zimbabwe, Chief Mapungwana told the state-controlled Manica Post newspaper that a number of Mozambican villagers had asked for permission to build temporary homes in his area in the Chipinge area of Manicaland province.
Luthando Mapepa, a reporter from the newspaper, said he crossed the border to Espungabeira last weekend and found “affected communities… were fleeing to Zimbabwe, running away from Renamo bandits.”
Espungabeira is in Mozambique’s Manica province and lies just 4km from the border with Zimbabwe.
Villager Arimando Sithole was quoted as saying: “We are taking our important belongings to Zimbabwe because here property is not safe.” The paper did not give the number of villagers who have fled so far but said they were bringing cattle and goats with them to Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe authorities have previously dismissed claims that Renamo is active on Zimbabwe’s border.
Renamo waged a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992. It has refused to accept the Frelimo party’s victory in 2014 elections. Frelimo has been in power in Mozambique since independence in 1975.
As unrest worsened, hundreds of Mozambican refugees were reported earlier this year to have flooded into Malawi. Some of them said they were fleeing a crackdown by government forces hunting down Renamo supporters.
The Manica Post reported in March on claims that Renamo forces were recruiting youths on the Zimbabwe side of the border, targeting farm-workers in particular. But government officials have dismissed the claims.
There have been rumours on social media that Renamo forces had entered Zimbabwe’s Chipinge area but the district administrator, Edgars Seenza, told the Manica Post on Friday that the reports were untrue.
Renamo gunmen this week attacked a train in Mozambique’s central Sofala province.
The authorities have organised military “convoy” escorts for drivers along two stretches of highway in northern and central Mozambique, fearing attacks from Renamo.