September 27, 2002

Soldiers Put On High Alert

As official paranoia about a British invasion of Zimbabwe increases, government has deployed heavily armed soldiers and police to guard all airstrips throughout the country, it has emerged.

Sources said uniformed forces have been deployed to guard all strategic points including airstrips, border posts and other security points such as fuel storage tanks and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. The high alert was prompted by the presence of British troops doing routine military exercises in South Africa. Press reports that the troops were planning an invasion were dismissed by the British government which said the military exercises were normal training manoeuvres. The Independent heard that the government had cancelled all leave for the uniformed forces until the end of the year. "All military establishments have been put on high alert ahead of the alleged possible invasion. Police have actually intensified road-blocks currently being manned by armed riot-police and the army," sources said.

On his return from the Earth Summit earlier in September, President Mugabe told his supporters at Harare International Airport that some farmers had "been going to Britain and asking Britain to impose sanctions on us, asking Britain to send troops to Zimbabwe; sanctions so that they can operate as a deterrent on us and operate in their favour, troops so Britain can overthrow our government and put in place a government deriving from MDC." The government also believes that the opposition MDC is trying to smuggle food into the country through airstrips. The government has already confiscated food aid imported by the MDC. Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesman Squadron Leader Colonel Mukotekwa said he was not aware of any such deployments. "The military authorities are not aware of any deployment at airstrips, neither are the authorities aware of military establishments on high alert," Mukotekwa said. "Having said that, it is not the tradition of the military to discuss military deployments or manoeuvres with the public press."

Sources at remote mining centres, farms and ranch airstrips confirmed to the Independent that soldiers were camped at the airstrips and no explanation had been given in regard to their presence. Recently technical representatives of a major South African mining house were confronted by several armed soldiers and a policeman as they disembarked from a small plane at a private airstrip. The police insisted on searching the plane before anyone disembarked saying they were looking for smuggled.(ZIMBABWE INDEPENDENT)

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