Arms shipment destined for Zimbabwe docks in Beira

Pro-democracy activists in Zimbabwe have launched an investigation into reports that an arms shipment destined for the Zimbabwe Defences Forces (ZDF) docked in Beira on Sunday.

SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that activists from Mozambique’s trade union movement tipped off their counterparts in Harare, after some of their members who work at Beira’s port became suspicious of the consignment.

The shipment, believed to be from China, is addressed to Abaxis Enterprises. Enquiries by SW Radio Africa revealed that the company is owned by Neville Mutsvangwa whose father Chris is a ZANU PF functionary and Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to China.

The arrival of the shipment comes less than a month after Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa told Newsday that Zimbabwe was looking for arms, but was struggling to acquire them because of the arms embargo.

He was speaking to the daily paper when denying allegations that Zimbabwe was supplying arms to Ivory Coast’s embattled leader Laurent Gbago.

A security consultant told us it is known in military circles that the ZDF was hunting for a substantial amount of ammunition for its standard AK-47 assault rifles, as well as mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.

‘As of now investigations are ongoing to try to determine the type of weapons contained in the shipment. Obviously great care was taken to try and conceal the contents but eagle eyed dock workers in Beira were able to identify that the shipment contained arms,’ our source said.

Sox Chikohwero, an MDC activist who is a former member of the defence forces, said weapons bought by the Mugabe regime are responsible for the deaths of many of his opponents.

‘Zimbabwe has never been under threat from any of its neighbours in the last 20 years so why do they buy arms of war. We know most of the weapons end up in the hands of the war vets, militia and its rogue soldiers,’ Chikohwero said.

An attempt by Zimbabwe to purchase large quantities of ammunition from China was reportedly thwarted in April 2008 after large civil society protests in South Africa and other Southern African countries, where trade unionists refused to unload the cargo in the port of Durban.

The arms shipment arrived aboard a Chinese cargo ship, the ‘An Yue Jiang’, a ship owned by a Chinese parastatal, China Ocean Shipping Company.

The shipper of the arms was Poly Technologies of Beijing, China and the delivery address on the shipping documents was the Zimbabwe Defence Force, Harare. The cargo consisted of 3,080 cases of arms contained in six large containers.

The international community has in the past raised concerns about Zimbabwe acquiring arms of war when the country is not engaged in any military conflict. Accusations have been levelled against Robert Mugabe and his military henchmen for using the arms for domestic violations of human rights.

In February, the MDC-T in Manicaland accused the former ruling ZANU PF of arming its militia, to create instability in the province. The MDC-T spokesman for Manicaland, Pishai Muchauraya, said the militia and war vets in the area were fully armed. He said they were responsible for the recent violence that saw hundreds of villagers from Nyakomba in Nyanga North flee across the border into Mozambique.  SW Radio