Chinese arms ship not welcome in Africa

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Zimbabwean authorities yesterday said the cash-strapped government
has a right to buy arms from any legal source as long as they are
needed to defend the country.

from our correspondent in Harare

“It’s our sovereign right to defend ourselves, it’s our sovereign
right to buy weapons from any legitimate source worldwide and we
don’t need clearance from anyone,” Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa

A Chinese ship, An Yue Jiang, laden with Zimbabwean-bound weapons
last week failed to unload at a South African port after a court
barred its cargo from being transported overland to the land-locked
crisis-torn country.

The vessel, which anchored off the South African port of Durban,
sailed off to an unknown destination on Friday.

Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1 500 rocket-propelled
grenades and more than 3 000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship.

Chinamasa said the Zimbabwe government has always purchased weapons in previous years, even from the colonial ruler Britain, so “I don’t understand what the hullabaloo is all about”.

“As long as the need arises, we will buy,” he said.

On Monday, Zambia’s president Levy Mwanawasa urged regional states
to bar a Chinese ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe from entering their
waters, saying the shipment could deepen the country’s election crisis.

The ship has been struggling to dock.

The Chinese ship, An Yue Jiang, was turned away from South Africa and reported to heading for Angola in the hope of docking there,
Mozambique’s transport minister said on Saturday.

Mozambique did not allow it to enter its waters. “I hope this will be the case with all the countries because we don’t want a situation which will escalate tension in Zimbabwe more than what it is”

The Chinese ship left South African waters on Friday after a court
refused to allow the arms to be transported across South Africa.

“The Chinese can play a very useful role in Zimbabwe without offering
firearms,” Mwanawasa said.

On Sunday, Generals in the Zimbabwean army had an emergency meeting to consider alternative ways to bring its shipment of Chinese weapons into the country as soon as possible.

Reliable source said the meeting took place after the governments
of Mozambique and Tanzania refused to let the Chinese ship the An Yue
Jiang deliver the cargo to one of their ports.

The ship fled the Durban harbour on Friday night shortly after the
Durban High Court granted a court order to prevent the weapons from
being transported through South African territory.

The court also ordered that the cargo be off-loaded in Durban for inspection. Meanwhile sources say the US is exerting some pressure on port authorities in the sub-region not to allow the ship to dock.

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