Deadly cargo for Zim

2008-04-16 00:00

Cape Town — A Chinese ship, carrying six containers that hold 77 tons of anti-personnel armaments destined for the Zimbabwe Defence Ministry, was yesterday waiting to enter Durban Harbour.

Should the ship be allowed to unload its cargo of arms, and the containers be trucked across South African soil, this will be in contravention of South Africa’s established foreign policy and its Constitution, the Democratic Alliance said.

The information relating to the ship was made public in a radio broadcast yesterday by the investigative magazine noseweek.

Editor Martin Welz has documents proving the shipment of the consignment and its contents, but has refused to disclose his source.

Inside the containers are millions of rounds of AK47 ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and mortar bombs, together with mortar tubes for launching them.

According to the documents, which The Witness has seen, the ship, called the An Yue Jiang, left the Chinese Port of Tianjin on about March 15.

The armaments in the six containers were supplied by a company called Poly Technologies Inc., with an address at New Poly Plaza Beijing.

One document, headed “Arms”, and addressed to the Defence Ministry, Private Bag 7713, Causeway in Harare, also provides a telephone number for the Defence Department, where someone may presumably be alerted to the cargo’s arrival.

The arrival of the armaments comes in the same week that the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantine Chiwenga, reportedly took personal charge of President Robert Mugabe’s re-election bid.

The independent Zimbabwean news service, Zim Online, reported yesterday that Chiwenga, who commands both the army and the Air Force, met in Bulawayo with provincial commanders of the army, police and secret service police to plan a campaign for Mugabe.

“Authoritative military sources said provincial joint committees manned by senior military, police and intelligence officers loyal to Mugabe will spearhead the campaign that they said will see unprecedented violence unleashed on supporters of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai,” Zim Online said. It is said they will operate as “veterans”.

The online news service continued: “Junior police officers initially seconded to Mugabe’s campaign, but whose loyalty is questionable had been recalled at Chiwenga’s instructions, sources said. But they said all state security arms had been roped in to support the campaign, while the Air Force of Zimbabwe was ordered to make helicopters available to campaign teams.

“The level of violence is going to be shocking,” said a senior army officer. “It is going to be a wave that will keep Tsvangirai’s supporters indoors or displaced. It is meant to ensure that only supporters of Mugabe will dare come out in large numbers to vote in the run-off election,” the source added.

Zim Online said Zimbabwean Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi has refused to take questions on the matter, saying he is not aware of any military involvement in Mugabe’s campaign.

Sapa reported yesterday that the SA Police Explosives Unit confirmed that a Chinese ship, carrying arms, was docked at the outer anchorage of the Durban port.

Inspector Nicholas Gunther of the SA Explosives Unit in Durban told Sapa the vessel is carrying a shipment of arms.

Leonard Hadebe, head of Durban Customs, also confirmed to Sapa that the shipment arrived at the Durban Harbour on April 14 and is headed for Zimbabwe.

Later, Transnet said the ship has been cleared to dock.

Transnet spokesman John Dludlu said in a statement released late yesterday: “As is procedure with all vessels, the vessel and its cargo have been cleared by the relevant authorities”.

The ship’s master, who identified himself as captain Sunaijun, told Sapa by radio phone that there is “no dangerous cargo only general cargo”.

Asked if there is cargo destined for Zimbabwe, he said there is.

However, clarity on the contents of the cargo could not be ascertained due to the poor connection.

Beeld reports that an inspection by SA Customs deemed the consignment "risky" and further shipment was halted for the moment.

According to the SA Revenue Service (SARS), the containers of armaments will be inspected by SARS and police officials today to determine whether they are indeed suspicious.

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