ZIMBABWE’s military incursion into Mashonaland Central province for a routine training exercise is part of efforts by the Zimbabwe Defense Force (ZDF) to familiarize itself with the region as the southern African country is about to discover oil reserves along the Zambezi Basin.
The operation aims to secure what may turn out to be oil reserves at Muzarabani.
Prior to publication, efforts to contact Invictus Energy management were unsuccessful.
In email responses to questions from the Zimbabwe Independent, the ZDF confirmed it briefed stakeholders in Mashonaland Central ahead of the training exercise and pledged to protect everything inside from the country.
The ZDF, the statement continued, was well placed to defend the country.
“All Government Ministries, Provincial Leaders, Traditional Leaders and all stakeholders in Mashonaland Central Province were involved during the planning stages of the exercise.
“At the start of the exercise, the whole nation was then informed by a press release issued on September 23, 2022,” ZDF said.
Responding to the question whether ZDF would be ready to secure and protect Zimbabwe’s oilfields if ongoing exploration work proves successful, ZDF said it would be committed to protecting “everything that lies within the borders of Zimbabwe”.
“Section 212 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act 2013 (No. 20) states that: “The function of the defense forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its security and national interests, and its territorial integrity. What is implicit in the constitution is that the ZDF must protect everything within the borders of Zimbabwe,” the ZDF said.
As part of its adventures in Mashonaland Central, the ZDF noted that it collaborates with all state security agencies charged with the constitutional duty to protect the territory of the country.
“The defense and security of our nation is not the preserve of ZDF alone, but encompasses the role played by other security agencies.
“Therefore, the act of defending the territorial integrity of the country naturally requires the highest level of coordination between all defense and security agencies, which is achieved through joint training activities such as the training exercise currently underway in Mashonaland Central province,” ZDF added.
In August, Australian Stock Exchange-listed energy explorer Invictus Energy began drilling the first of two test wells on its Cahora Bassa concessions, expressing optimism that exploration data indicated the Zimbabwe could potentially find oil.
The company was awarded oil exploration rights along the Zambezi Valley in 2020, which were followed by negotiations between the company and the government to reach a production sharing agreement (PSA).
At that time, independent estimates indicated that the prospect could potentially bring 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) or 206 billion liters of oil into the Zambezi Valley Basin.
Last month, the ZDF announced it was embarking on a month-long training exercise in Mashonaland Central, which would culminate in the movement of a significant number of troops and military vehicles from Harare to the area. as optimism mounted that Invictus Energy’s efforts would turn Zimbabwe into an oil-producing nation.
The troops are deployed in six districts namely Bindura, Mbire, Muzarabani, Rushinga, Mt Darwin and Shamva. Invictus conducts its operations in Muzarabani.
The training exercise, which comes after the ZDF conducted routine military drills in Masvingo last year, is due to end on October 21 as the army prepares to “hone and hone its operational skills to to improve the ability of the Zimbabwe Defense Force to fulfill its mandate”. .
Oil and security sources told the Independent that the ongoing military drills in the province that borders Zimbabwe with Zambia and Mozambique were primarily aimed at “protecting what could potentially turn out to be Zimbabwe’s oil treasure trove in a time when the country is in the process of reversing its economic fragility”.
The sources, in separate briefings, told this publication last week that the military, in line with its constitutional mandate, also wanted to mark its presence in the region and prevent the situation from spiraling into chaos as it did when Zimbabwe has discovered a lucrative diamond hoard. treasure in Manicaland, which was expected to satisfy 25% of world demand at the time.
More than a decade ago, when Zimbabwe was reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis, the country came across alluvial diamonds in Chiadzwa, triggering informal mining activities by illegal miners.
The ZDF then deployed soldiers to the area to maintain order, as illegal mining activities often escalated into violence resulting in death, in some cases.
While the government, through the ZDF, intervened to promote order in the region, the military also secured a stake in some of the mining companies licensed to extract the gemstones. ZDF owns a stake in Chinese diamond miner Anjin.
“While prospects remain bright that Zimbabwe’s oil exploration activities will yield positive results, the military should also ensure that any future oil extraction activity will be orderly and will not prove to be chaotic as it has been. case in Chiadzwa when the country discovered huge diamond deposits in 2010,” an oil industry source told the Independent.
Rural District Council sources in Mashonaland Central province told the Independent that the army’s excursion into the region extends into Zimbabwe’s territorial border areas with Mozambique and Zambia.
In neighboring Mozambique, a deadly insurgency has erupted in resource-rich Cabo Delgado province, displacing more than 570,000 people and killing thousands. The insurgent group known as Al Sunnah WaJaama, with Islamic leanings, has escalated violence in Cabo Delgado, raising fears that the insurgency could spread to Zimbabwe and disrupt the country’s security and major imports such than the fuel that transits through the port of Beira.
The militants have disrupted the movement of goods along the Mutare-Beira trade corridor which gives Zimbabwe the shortest route to the sea and poses a serious threat to the economically strategic Beira-Harare oil pipeline, commonly known as Feruka.
Zimbabwe shares a border with Mozambique and Zambia at Kanyemba which is in the Mbire district of Mashonaland Central.
The source added that ZDF, in addition to the public notice it issued in August, had also officially notified major companies operating in Mashonaland Central, particularly Invictus Energy.
“ZDF has informed notable companies operating in Mashonaland Central, in particular Invictus Energy, of the ongoing month-long training operation in the province and along the border with Zambia and Mozambique,” the company told this publication a source on condition of anonymity.
With the military exercise already underway in Mashonaland Central, Invictus Energy announced in an update this week that it is targeting “20 trillion cubic feet plus 845 million barrels of conventional gas condensate (average raw unclassified)” during one of its two tests. wells known as Mukuyu 1.
“Mukuyu is one of the largest oil and gas exploration prospects to be drilled in the world in 2022, targeting a combined potential resource potential of 20 trillion cubic feet and 845 million barrels of conventional gas condensate, or approximately 4.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent on a gross risk-free average,” the company’s statement read.
He said his second test pit, known as Baobab, has “similar structural features to the Ngamia discovery in Kenya’s Lokichar Basin, which led to subsequent discoveries in the ‘pearl necklace’. “along the basin margin,” Invictus said in their latest update this week.