Mabasa Sasa in ETUNDA VILLAGE, Namibia
Any attack on Zimbabwe is an attack on the entire SADC region and will warrant a military response from the bloc, Namibia’s founding president, Dr Sam Nujoma, has said.The Father of the Namibian Nation spoke in the wake of revelations that Britain, under former premier Tony Blair, approached South Africa seeking co-operation in a military invasion of Zimbabwe during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency.
South Africa rejected the overtures.
Diplomatic sources also told this paper that Britain had approached at least two other southern African countries to provide land and airspace for a possible invasion of Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium.
This was when Zimbabwe had embarked on its revolutionary Fast-track Land Reform Programme.
It is understood that one of the countries (named) actually agreed but backtracked when Zimbabwe sent an envoy to ask the leadership of that nation why it wanted to assist in an invasion of a fellow Sadc member state.
The source said, “At least three countries were approached. One of them rejected the idea flatly, one listened to the proposal and then rejected it, and another went along and only stopped when Harare made it clear it was aware of the plot. That is where it crumbled, but this tells Zimbabwe to remain vigilant as such threats can never be consigned to history.”
In an interview in his home village of Etunda in Northern Namibia earlier this week, Dr Nujoma — who was president from Namibia’s independence in 1990 until 2005 — said while he had not been approached to assist in an invasion of Zimbabwe, it should be made clear to the whole world that such an action would never be tolerated by the region.
He said, “Namibia will never betray an African country to allow an imperialist country to use our territory as a base for aggression against any member of the African Union.
“If anyone attacks any Sadc member we will be there. These imperialists understand nothing, but the language of force. We are ready for them.
“Why all of a sudden is Renamo causing problems in Mozambique? Sadc should raise an army and wipe out the rebels who try and destabilise the region, like we did in the DRC.”
This was in reference to renewed rebel activity by Mozambique’s Renamo after having first instigated a civil war that ran from 1975 to 1992 and cost more than one million lives and affected its neighbour to the west, Zimbabwe.
Dr Nujoma said Africa must be prepared to confront the European Union and NATO in battle if need be.
“Member-states of the African Union must contribute to the Standing Force to defend the continent of Africa. What happened in Libya and now in Egypt should not be allowed anywhere else. No African country should be used to harbor foreign troops on its territory, including the American AFRICOM.
“We know they are stationed in Stuttgart, Germany and they have been there since the Second World War. Now they want to come to Africa. Africa should be prepared to fight them…
“It should be clearly stated that any attack on Zimbabwe is an attack on Sadc. I can be commander myself, we are already fighters and we don’t need guns or training from anyone.”
Dr Nujoma added: “We congratulate Zanu-PF and President Mugabe for fighting the machinations of the British and neo-colonialists in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a shining example on the African continent…
“We say no to the return of imperialists in our lifetime and we follow in the footsteps of Robert Gabriel Mugabe,” he said.
Dr Nujoma urged the youth of Africa to follow in the example of the liberation movement generation that sacrificed much to achieve political independence.
Among sitting heads of state and government in the region, only Presidents Mugabe, Jose Eduardo dos Santos (Angola), Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia), and Jacob Zuma (South Africa) had a direct experience of the liberation struggle.
“The youth of Africa must follow in the footsteps of their forefathers. We must start fighting to liberate our economies.”
He said Africa had won many battles against the West before and it would draw from these experiences to continue resisting oppression as it strives towards economic independence.
Dr Nujoma said empowering African people was the next logical stage in the struggle for true independence, and this battle would be premised on improving education and building capacity in the citizenry to run economies and nations in the best interests of indigenes.
There was no reason why, he noted, Africa could not industrialise within the next 10 years and become self-sufficient.
“All resources of Africa must be used in the interests of the African people. Let us produce for ourselves… We are not poor, they (Europe) are the ones who are poor.”
Dr Nujoma said Europe was vulnerable at the moment and Africa must take advantage of this to surge forward economically and in asserting sovereignty over its resources.
He said he could not understand why Europe and America were busying themselves with developments in Africa and yet they were facing immense problems of their own back home.
“In Greece, in Italy, in Portugal and all over Europe, their people are dying of hunger. They are poor, they are suffering. Why should they bother us?
“Europe and America must concentrate on supporting their own people who are dying from hunger over there.”
A fortnight ago, Cde Mbeki said Blair’s regime put pressure on Tshwane to abet an invasion of Zimbabwe.
The British wanted to depose President Mugabe unconstitutionally and impose MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in his stead.
Interestingly, around the time of these invasion plots, Tsvangirai told a rally in Harare that he was prepared to remove President Mugabe from office “violently”.
Before Cde Mbeki’s revelation, a senior officer in Blair’s uniformed service had also said the military option had been strongly considered.
Lord (General) Charles Guthrie, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army from 1997 to 2001, said Blair had asked him to look at an invasion of Zimbabwe.
Lord Guthrie said his response was, “Hold hard, you’ll make it worse.”
Labelled Blair’s favourite general, Lord Guthrie is credited with conniving with the then Prime Minister to send troops to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In his memoirs (“A Journey: My Political Life”), Blair said, “People often used to say to me: If you got rid of the gangsters in Sierra Leone, Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, why can’t you get rid of Mugabe? The answer is: I would have loved to; but it wasn’t practical (since in his case, and for reasons I never quite understood, the surrounding African nations maintained a lingering support for him and would have opposed any action strenuously).”
A number of factors are said to have weighed against an invasion of Zimbabwe.
Firstly, the Zimbabwean military is battle-hardened, having been involved in frontline action almost every year from the start of the liberation struggle in 1996 up until the deployment in the DRC war that ended in 2003. The British Military Advisory and Training Team was
in Zimbabwe from 1980 to 2000 and knew of the Zimbabwe Defence Force’s capacity.
Secondly, there were some 100 000 British white citizens in Zimbabwe at the time and London knew they would be affected by any invasion.
Thirdly, Britain was at the time over-stretched in Afghanistan and then afterwards in Iraq.
Another factor was that at the time the United States – Britain’s largest ally – appeared unconvinced about the efficacy of an invasion, especially after the experience of Somalia in the early 1990s when Zimbabwean troops essentially rescued American troops from a quagmire they had sunk themselves in.