New Destination of Zimbabwe Arms Ship: Angola

Is this a Red Herring or not?
According to the South African Department of Transport, the An Yue Jiang is not going to Mozambique, but to Angola. So, either the Angolans have decided to purchase the arms from the Chinese OR they have decided to assist with the delivery of the arms.

Angola, which is run by an old freedom fighting ally of Mugabe, José Eduardo dos Santos (MPLA), is very likely to allow the weapons and arms to be off-loaded. There are effectively two ways that the arms can be taken into Zimbabwe: Ground and Air

Ground
Once the arms are on terra firma, the logistics of moving the weapons – by road or rail – to Zimbabwe from Angola, which is located on the west coast of Africa, becomes a veritable nightmare. Of all Angola’s neighbours (the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia) only Botswana, Namibia and Zambia can provide ground access for the arms shipment to reach Zimbabwe. However, the likelihood of either one of these countries granting permission is smaller than small. In addition, the roads and the railways running through Angola are by and large destroyed and the terrain extremely rough.

So, ground simply makes no sense at all.

Air
This is probably the most feasible option – albeit still a territorial infringement. Angola can use on of their state-owned airways or their military aircraft to rapidly move the arms directly to Zimbabwe. The aircraft need not cross the expanse of either Zambian or Namibian (who may retaliate) airspace.

1) They could fly to the southern Angolan border and then turn due east, heading towards the border shared between Namibia and Zambia.
2) The aircraft can then cover the short distance by moving between Zambian and Namibian airspace. This will make retaliation difficult because Namibia cannot shoot at aircraft in Zambian airspace and vice versa.
3) There will probably not be time to retaliate either. The distances from the air force bases to that particular border are vast. Once they become aware of the problem, the aircraft will be safely in Zimbabwean airspace already.

What are the options?
The SALC: The SALC can try to seek remedy from the Angolan courts. The chances of succeeding are minute. The country is fairly corrupt (in my ever-present opinion) and the government kleptocratic.
The Mbeki factor: Mbeki could exert diplomatic pressure on Dos Santos, but considering that he has yet to be seen to exert pressure on any of his former freedom fighting cronies, this could be a cold day in hell.
International pressure: Angola is an OPEC member and a beneficiary of World Bank and IMF funding. Both institutions could use this to stop Angola from allowing the weapons to be transported through the country. The World Bank and the IMF may however feel that it is neither ethical nor appropriate to hold a sovereign country hostage in this way.
Zambia and Namibia: These two countries should call Angola’s bluff: They need to proactively engage with Angola and tell them to keep clear of their air space. They should also illustrate their air presence in the area just to be sure. Not sure that they will do this though….

Red Herring or Not?
Having developed mistrust in what is being said by certain South African dignitaries (Department of Transport representatives included); the whole Angola story has a 50% chance of being fact and a 50% chance of being fiction.

So, those interested in spotting the errant ship, should keep an eagle’s eye on both the Angolan and Mozambique harbours.
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2 Responses

  1. Happy that you found it informative, Zen and thank you for the vote of confidence 🙂

    I went to the link. Great site!

  2. http://www.care2.com/news/member/597720583/714823

    Thank you for this informative article, I have included a link to your blog on the above page.

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