Speculation that members of the Zimbabwe National Army are in Libya to help prop up cornered dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has gained momentum. This follows Zimbabwe's Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa avoiding giving a straight answer to a question posed in Parliament.

With the eastern part of Libya having fallen to anti-Gaddafi protesters, it's being reported that mercenaries from several African countries, including Zimbabwe, are putting up a stand in the west of the country, including the capital Tripoli, on behalf of Gaddafi. They are reportedly gunning down unarmed civilians at random and Arab TV channel Al Jazeera said that Zimbabwe was helping to provide mercenaries, along with Chad and other African countries.

In Parliament on Wednesday MDC-T MP and Chief Whip, Innocent Gonese, asked Mnangagwa to respond to reports that soldiers from Zimbabwe are involved. Instead of giving a straight answer Mnangagwa said "...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."

More rambling followed as Mnangagwa asked Gonese to "direct his question to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, who might also enquire through foreign relations if there are any African countries participating there." Although he went on to say there was no provision in the defence act for members of the army "to participate in cases or in events outside the country," he avoided giving a "yes or no' answer to Gonese's simple question.

Zimbabweans will however remember that in 1997 Mugabe's regime, without consultation, sent troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help the late Laurent Kabila against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The intervention and the huge sums of money spent funding it crippled Zimbabwe's economy, while regime officials lined their pockets with mineral concessions.

Meanwhile it's being reported that Gaddafi is weighing up his options in terms of which country to flee to for sanctuary. Zimbabwe is emerging as a firm favourite, with London-based Libyan political activist Guma el-Gamaty, telling the Australian ABC news channel that "quite reliable sources" believe Gaddafi is readying to flee his country and heading to Zimbabwe.

"Gaddafi's own private plane is loaded with gold bullion and lots of hard currency, mainly dollars, and is preparing to flee to Zimbabwe to stay there with his friend Robert Mugabe. We think this could happen very shortly because the (UN) Security Council is threatening to impose a no-fly zone and we think that Gaddafi will try to escape before this no-fly zone is imposed," Guma el-Gamaty said.

Mugabe is no stranger to giving sanctuary to murderous dictators. Former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was offered a safe haven in Zimbabwe, despite being sentenced to death by an Ethiopian court for crimes against humanity. He remains happily ensconced in his villa in the suburb of Gunhill, outside Harare, to this day.

Major Protais Mpiranya, a Rwandan army officer accused of ordering the murder of that country's Prime Minister and the Belgian soldiers who protected her, is also said to be hiding in Zimbabwe. Mpiranya, a Hutu extremist who formerly led the Presidential Guard in Rwanda, is wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the UN war crimes tribunal.