Robert Mugabe is preparing for war – Reports

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe is stockpiling arms and ammunition and preparing for war, the Democratic Alliance warned today.

Briefing the media at Parliament, following a fact-finding visit to Zimbabwe last week, DA MPs Wilmot James and Kenneth Mubu said "credible sources" within the country reported Mugabe was talking to Venezuela, Cuba and Korea to fund a war chest ahead of the next election.

The ageing leader was also trying to procure 7.62mm and 9mm ammunition from South Africa.

"I think there is no doubt Mugabe is preparing for war. We spoke to very, very reliable sources," Mubu told journalists.

These included the Human Rights NGO Forum, comprising 16 local NGOs; and the Harare-based organisations Justice for Agriculture, the Legal Resources Foundation and the Research and Advocacy Unit.

Mubu said they had also spoken to Zimbabwe’s Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, and Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister, Moses Ndlovu.

"These people are on the ground, they are in touch with the communities, in rural areas particularly, and we have no doubt what they tell us is true," he said.

Citing a Belgian research group, International Peace Information Service, James said some arms shipments had already arrived in Zimbabwe.

"On August 21, 2008, the first of many arms shipments, containing 32 tons of [ammunition] was flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Harare.

"On August 30, a second shipment of 20 tons of AK-47 [ammunition] arrived. This was flown in via Angola, [and also] included mortar bombs and rockets."

James said he regretted to report South Africa was planning a shipment of ammunition to Zimbabwe.

"Our own country… is planning to export 7.62mm and 9mm ammunition to Zimbabwe. Parliament’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee is considering authorising more than a million rounds of both types of bullets for export there.

"Mugabe is also talking to Venezuela, Cuba and Korea to fund a war-chest in preparation for the referendum and election, following the implementation of the global political agreement (GPA) brokered by former president Thabo Mbeki on behalf of SADC."

James said Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party appeared to be "mobilising for war against their own citizens".

James and Mubu called on President Jacob Zuma to impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

Further, Zuma – in his capacity as Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairman – should "actively restrain" Mugabe’s regime from mobilising what they called its "well-organised paramilitary terror apparatus".

Zimbabwe is not only stockpiling modern weapons, but is circumventing sanctions by exporting arms to the US and the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan via Eastern Europe rogue arms traders, according to a reports.

According to the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgian research hub, the situation in Zimbabwe is a good example of why the UN-proposed Arms Trade Treaty needs to be as comprehensive as possible.

It is believed former Israel spy agent Ari Ben Manashe is one of the rogue arms traders working with Robert Mugabe’s Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Uncollaborated reports also say Zimbabwean arms are reaching the Taliban through well knowns Eastern European and Asian arms dealers.

Zimbabwe’s huge piles of ammunition are imported and stocked in a disused mining shaft under a mountain in Darwendale, near Inkomo baracks. The shaft was converted for that purpose by Ian Smith’s government and it now houses a manufacturing plant for banned landmines. 

The Zimbabwe Defence Industries, an arms supplies company is headed by the country’s wealthy arms merchant Retired Colonel Tashinga Dube, the man who lost in the last Parliamentary elections in Bulwayo and he is currently embroiled in Highlanders football club in which he is claiming the club house to offset a debt for money supplied during elections.

Throughout last year, when the political climate was at its most volatile, the IPIS tracked shipments of arms in and out of the country. It says they not only pose a threat to Zimbabweans, but outline the dubious nature of arms deals that continue to take place with a country that is heavily sanctioned

In the space of 48 hours last August, 53 tons of ammunition were allegedly flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Harare, say report authors Brian Johnson-Thomas and Peter Danssaert.

The ammunition was flown by Enterprise World Airways, aboard a Boeing 707-3B4C aircraft registered as 9Q-CRM.

The first shipment on August 21 contained 32 tons of 7.62mmx54 cartridges. Two days later a second shipment arrived, containing 20 tons of 7.62mmx39 cartridges, which are used in AK-47s. The ammunition arrived in Zimbabwe four months after a controversial arms consignment from China was turned away at Durban, only to be flown into the country later from Angola, the report claims.

Despite denials from Luanda and Beijing, an employee of the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industry (ZDI) in Harare told IPIS that the shipment, which contained mortar bombs, rockets and ammunition, had arrived in the country.

"Zimbabwe has no national legislation on the import, export or transit of arms and ammunition that conforms to international standards," the report’s authors say, suggesting the country’s borders are dangerously permeable and proof of what happens when no arms treaty is in place.

All does not have to be lost in the absence of a treaty, Guy Lamb of the Institute of Security Studies argues.

"Illicit and corrupt arms trading, as well as arms transfers to conflict zones or countries where governments are responsible for human rights abuses, can be restricted in Africa by more comprehensive and consistent implementation of existing regional arms control agreements at national level," the head of the arms management programme at the institute said. "Examples include the SADC firearms control protocol and the Nairobi small arms and light weapons protocol."

However, what could happen and what does happen are two very different things.

The researchers also tracked the shipment of 1 349 stripped MAG58 machinegun bodies, 2 051 barrels and various other machinegun parts from Harare to Podgorica airport in Montenegro in February last year, which they claim later found their way to the US in a roundabout deal that breached sanctions imposed by the government of George W Bush.

According to the airway bill, or shipping document, the consignment was dispatched by the ZDI to its Montenegran counterpart, a deal they say was brokered by Swiss company BT International.

An investigation into the deal pointed to Ohio Ordnance Works as the recipient of the gun parts. The company supplies the US armed forces and previously supplied the allied forces in Iraq. When contacted by The Sunday Independent, Montenegro’s Department of Defence declined to comment.

Given that ZDI is a sanctioned company the report suggests the deal "may have been to evade US sanctions on Zimbabwean individuals and entities".

The authors also note that only two countries voted against pushing ahead with the proposed Arms Trade Treaty at the UN General Assembly last October, namely the US and Zimbabwe.

South Africa voted in favour.