Zimbabwe’s NewsDay reported that the minister was asked to verify reports that Zimbabwean soldiers were shooting down unarmed civilians protesting against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
“Mr Speaker, I would like to know from the minister of defence, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whether there is any truth in the recent press reports that many mercenaries assisting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are personnel from the ZNA.
“What is the government policy regarding the use of force by armed forces against civilians?” the Movement for Democratic Change’s chief whip Innocent Gonese asked.
Mnangagwa is said to have not hesitated to respond but his answer did not specifically relate to the question.
“That there are mercenaries who are African and are in Libya - I have no mandate in my duty as minister of defence to investigate activities happening in another African country.
“Whether the government of Zimbabwe has any policy where members of the Zimbabwe National Army are allowed to participate in cases or in events outside the country, I would like to advise honourable members that we do not have that provision in the Defence Act,” said Mnangagwa.
Analysts, however, have said that the recruitment of mercenaries in Libya from Sub-Saharan African nations began in the 1980s as a secret programme, but their presence was uncovered in recent years. The exact number was not known, but they were believed to be in the hundreds.
Gaddafi, who seized power in a 1969 military coup when he was 27, has deliberately neglected the 50 000-member army in his country to diminish its ability to topple him. Instead, he has spent lavishly on arms and perks for militia loyal to him and his sons, experts have been quoted as saying.