Iran is allegedly assisting Zimbabwe in creating a “cyber army,” Spotlight Zimbabwe reported. According to the outlet, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration allegedly secretly called on Iran to assist in the creation of the cyber army with the purpose of thwarting a potential political revolution that’s brewing in the country.
The country is facing its worst drought in four decades, with over 7 million people in need of urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), which is struggling to raise more than $200 million needed to ease the food insecurity disaster.
In addition, the country faces price hikes and has a collapsing health sector, which expectedly creates opportunity for demonstrations and protests by opposition.
As per the outlet, the demonstrations may be a “Arab Spring-style revolution,” against “Mnanagagwa’s regime.”
Based on completely unmentioned sources, Spotlight Zimbabwe reported that high-ranking military and government officials signed a military deal with Tehran to establish the new branch of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF). It will allegedly work closely in cooperation with the administration’s e-government.
“Yes, Iran is helping Zimbabwe to build a cyber army with formidable capabilitties,” said an anonymous officer working close to Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
“Actually, the project is at an advanced stage, and Iran is not only setting up the cyber army but also a multi-million-dollar helicopter training and maintenance facility for our air force. That facility might become a base for Iran in the future. I’m not sure what Iran is going to get in return, but our information here at the ministry indicates that they have applied to mine uranium at Kanyemba, so they can have access to yellowcake for their steadily expanding peaceful nuclear program. They’re also interested in our oil deposits, and planning to launch a new oil refinery in Zimbabwe by 2024.”
It should be noted that Iran has no oil infrastructure whatsoever outside of the country, so allegedly building an oil refinery in Zimbabwe would be its first. In addition, Iran’s oil sector is still heavily sanctioned by the US, and there could be plans that by then sanctions would be gone, but there is no uncertainty.
An anonymous former Zimbabwean intelligence minister confirmed to the outlet that Tehran was assisting Zimbabwe in forming a cyber army.
“That’s true and Mnangagwa himself can confirm that, because he was personally involved around 2012 while he was still the minister of defence. At the time he flew to Tehran where a defence agreement was signed between Zimbabwe and Iran. We now have hundreds of military and intelligence officers that were trained in Iran, specifically for that realm of cyber warfare and technology.”
Another, currently serving minister, who is also anonymous, said that the entire operation was focused on establishing and running a new state-controlled intranet to replace the internet in the near future, taking a leaf from Iran’s intranet, known as the National Information Network (NIN).
“For national security purposes, the real goal and motive of the cyber army apart from policing social media and cyber threats both foreign and domestic, is to run a Zimbabwe intranet system, similar to the one Iran is implementing,” the anonymous minister said.
“Such a robust intranet will allow government to cut access to the internet without completely cutting it off. China has done it with the great firewall, to keep out unwanted internet services and platforms. The Russians are moving towards a similar model, and as you know Beijing, Moscow and Tehran are key allies of this country, it only makes sense for us to follow suit, because we share common foreign policy ideologies.”
Before leaving his post in 2016, more than 3 years ago, ZDF Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda hinted that such a cyber army would be established.
“We are already dealing with these threats,” General Sibanda said.
“As an army, at our institutions of training, we are training our officers to be able to deal with this new threat we call cyber warfare where weapons — not necessarily guns but basically information and communication technology — are being used to mobilise people to do the wrong things. We will be equal to the task when the time comes. The most important function, as outlined in the Constitution is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, national security, territorial integrity and to uphold the Constitution.”
According to the outlet, Zimbabwe and Iran are at a sort of renaissance in relations, after in 1979 the Zimbabwean vice president back then visited the country to meet its leaders. Since then, the only development has been that Zimbabwe opened an embassy in Tehran in 2003.
However, Zimbabwe has shut down internet to counter protests, in the past. It happened in January 2019, in response to protests against a fuel price hike.
Currently, Zimbabwe is in a very dire situation, as mentioned above. the wife of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was arrested on allegations of money laundering, fraud and violating exchange control regulations.
Thus, in addition to the drought, price hikes and the health sector falling apart, there appears to be systemic corruption that does little to remedy the exacerbated situation.
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