The China Zimbabwe Arms Deal: A storm in a teacup OR the tip of the iceberg?

The China Zimbabwe arms deal is a political hotcake that is getting hotter by the hour. Mozambique, finding that the attention was turning to them in respect of the shipment, was quick to point out that they had been tracking the movements of the An Yue Jiang and that they would never allow a ship bearing weaponry into there waters without prior approval. The Transport and Communications Minister, Paulo Zucula, said that he had confirmed that the destination given to the South African Department of Transport, was Luanda Angola.

The Angolan government has yet to respond. Hopefully their silence signifies that they are rethinking the entire situation. I would be surprised if they don’t. This is 77 tonnes of political hotcake you don’t want in your lap as a developing country right now. If you are sensible, that is…

The China Lie
China too has eventually deigned to comment, albeit in the form of a noncommittal fax to Reuters, which cursively read: “We do not understand the actual situation. China and Zimbabwe maintain normal trade relations. What we want to stress is China has always had a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms sales, and one of the most important principles is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Clearly China too is trying to place some distance between them and a situation that has definitely graduated into being an international incident.

But for this giant country, there will be little reprieve.

1. Although China is trading in arms with Zimbabwe on a continuous basis, they can still (under very, very lenient circumstances), be given the benefit of the doubt, when they say: ‘We do not understand the actual situation.’ But, considering that China has ALSO deployed some of their very own Red Army Soldiers to Zimbabwe, the ‘We do not understand the actual situation’ excuse becomes thinner than paper thin.

I hold it to be an outright lie.

2. The portion of the message that read: “China has always had a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms sales…”, would have been laughable if you had ignored the gravity of the matter. Here are some examples to chew on:

a) The Big Red has been involved in many shady arms deals with destabilized countries: You may recall the Angolan Oil-for-Arms deal with China or even the Shenyang fighter planes, T-59 battle tanks, HY-2 Silkworm surface-to-surface missiles and rocket launchers supplied to Iran or even the 25,000 Chinese-made rifles and 18,000 grenades that they supplied in Nepal.
b) The Big Red is also one of the largest traders in illegal firearms (Norinco pistols in particular) in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly in our very own country – South Africa.
c) The Big Red has refused to date to sign any multilateral agreements that will prevent the export of arms to areas likely to use these for serious human-rights violations.

I hold it to be an outright lie.

3. “ …and one of the most important principles is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries” In this particular part of the statement, China conveniently ignores their Red Army’s presence in Zimbabwe.

I hold it to be an outright lie.

China Africa’s Most UNWANTED element
Considering China’s secret history on the beleaguered African continent, their propensity for organized crime, their prevailing parasitical opportunism and the active role they play (albeit hidden from plain sight under most circumstances) in sowing (profitable-for-them) dischord, they are unwanted elements in Africa.

Whatever China touches turns to blood and poverty. This is something that we, who are busy trying to build a New Africa, certainly do not need…


5 Responses

  1. The citizens of Gardner, KS are currently working to recall two members of their City Council. The recall is tied up in the courts at the moment, but it should go to a vote in March of 2010.

  2. Lee,
    This is an excellent and insightful overview of the situation. A short synopsis would not have succeeded in bringing the entire message across.

  3. I have read some of your blogsite articles with great interest – not least because of the almost complete absense of references to China from official reportage on the Zimbabwean situation. (Other than the fact that the arms shipment originated in China – without any comment on the potential implications thereof.)

    Some weeks ago I started putting together a commentary on the “Cina Connection”, to which I continue to add as relevant information comes up. So far, the scenario continues to unfold as predicted. I have taken the liberty of including the text of that article below. My apologies for being somewhat verbose:-


    The China Connection

    There is so much happening with regard to Zimbabwe that it is easy to bog down in the detail. However, there is simply not enough time for that. What I am going to say now is largely conjecture, to the extent that I have some confirmed information, while many of the gaps have been filled in by extrapolation and inference. Nevertheless, the basic thesis seems to fit the observable facts.

    The intention of the piece is not to be defeatist – it is to bring home the immense gravity of the situation – HOPEFULLY while there is still an opportunity to do something about it.

    This is all about China, and the military Junta which now almost certainly controls Zimbabwe. And about that disgraceful imposter, Thabo Mbeki.

    Question: Why does Mbeki appear to support Mugabe unreservedly, and to do so at considerable cost to his own and his country’s credibility?

    Answer: All sorts of theories abound, of varying plausibility. Clearly the incentive for Mbeki to support Mugabe – or more properly, ZANU-PF – must be a very compelling one indeed. Just one suggestion is that he has ambitions regarding his own post-presidential role in African politics (perhaps, for example, in a putative future “United States of Africa”) and has been given reason to believe that by safeguarding China’s bridgehead in Zimbabwe, he is assuring powerful Chinese patronage for himself with regard to such pretentions. Certainly China presents a philosophical home to Mbeki, a self-avowed Communist. But whatever the actual reason, the reality of his support for ZANU-PF is now beyond doubt.

    So when you see Mbeki apparently behaving like a complete idiot, realize that – for all his lack of common sense, human decency and plain old-fashioned wisdom, he is not stupid, and he can be implacably focused when it suits him and when he has set out to achieve a specific end. Which means that he indubitably has compelling personal reasons for doing what he is doing with regard to Zimbabwe.

    Mbeki cannot, under any circumstances, be trusted in this matter. Nor, to a lesser extent, can the SADEC leaders – though whether that is because they buy into the Mbeki/China gravy train, or because they are ineffectual and only too happy to leave the whole sorry mess in someone else’s hands, I don’t know, and only time will tell. Probably a bit of each. Possible exceptions are David Khama of Botswana, and Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, who seems to embody at least the seeds of statesmanship. Or perhaps he merely understands the true implications of what is happening.

    I have had the privilege of meeting and spending an entire evening one-on-one with Eddie Cross of the MDC. He and I have divergent views politically (his record is strongly liberal – it was he who coached Robert Mugabe – while still in jail – for his future role as a national leader) but he is a man of unshakeable integrity for whom I have immense respect. If he has a fault, it is his sense of decency, and his optimism and expectation of decency in others. All of this means that I have tended to take very seriously such background information about the situation in Zimbabwe as I have gleaned from Eddie Cross himself, his reportage, and from others like him.

    Before the news of the Chinese arms shipment broke, I wrote to Martin Welz of Noseweek asking him if he had any idea as to just how China was involved in the relationship between Mbeki and Mugabe. I haven’t had a reply, but three days later he himself blew the lid on the arms story… Interesting coincidence! (I guess, on reflection, that was reply enough).

    China has been investing politically in ZANU-PF for at least 25 years. They have also invested materially in the country, particularly in the supply of arms and military equipment (including aircraft) for which Zimbabwe quite clearly has not been in a position to pay. This is of course a well established Chinese modus operandi for leveraging political influence in target countries.

    Zimbabwe is one of China’s most important bridgeheads into Africa. They are not about to let this slip away from them.

    The stakes are far, far higher than the simple matter of a time-expired megalomaniac tin-pot dictator clinging to power, or Mbeki’s apparent blind loyalty to an ‘Icon of the Liberation Era’.

    This is about Global Realpolitik, China-style.

    It is about a Zimbabwe that is for all intents and purposes, controlled by a military Junta, where Mugabe is little more than a convenient figure-head whose usefulness is rapidly evaporating. He may well be dumped when the whole charade becomes too obvious to be worth sustaining.

    I could – and generally do – go on and on, but you now have the essence of what I believe people have got to know if they are to have any chance of understanding the situation, or appreciating why the likelihood of a resolution in Zimbabwe (other than one favouring the Generals and China) is now slim indeed. There is a tiny window of opportunity for peacekeeping forces to enter the country BEFORE the next arms shipment arrives (either airlifted or offloaded in Angola), but after that only a massive and bloody war will dislodge either ZANU-PF or the Chinese. This view is reinforced by rumours of battle-hardened Angolan troops poised to enter Zimbabwe in support of ZANU-PF. And frankly, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, no-one gives a damn. Or at least, enough of a damn to do anything about it. Morgan Tsvangirai is more right than we can know for pleading with the UN and other outside agencies to act on Zimbabwe, and to act at once – before it is too late.

    Once a country becomes a province of China, it stays a province of China. Ask any Tibetan.

    While the Zimbabwean crisis unfolded, Nkosazana Zuma, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs (who might have been expected to address herself to the situation in Zimbabwe rather than go junketing off on a jolly) was in China, ostensibly to celebrate ten years of trade between South Africa and that country. I wonder what she was really doing there.

    There is of course an even more frightening scenario for South Africans: that Mbeki has already sold out his own country to China, and that what we are seeing is merely the Next Domino lending support and succour to the Previous One…


    Since the above was written, there has been talk of a transitional ‘Government of National Unity’ designed to smooth the way for a transfer of power from ZANU-PF to the MDC, and also to provide a mechanism for Mugabe to step down without (too much) loss of face.

    On paper, this looks not only reasonable, but a highly satisfactory resolution to an apparently intractable situation. The only problem for the cynic in me is that ZANU-PF has in the past often promised the world and made the most extraordinary concessions in order to buy time – merely to renege later. And time is something they desperately need right now – vide the endless foot-dragging with regard to the release of election results, while the Generals scrabble to regroup. Bottom line – without material guarantees of their good faith, I will continue to regard the Mugabe/ZANU-PF/Junta entity as the wounded buffalo to which it has been likened by the MDC.

    The ANC (the Party, as opposed to the lame-duck South African government) continues to pontificate through the mouthpiece of Jacob Zuma. But what he has been saying is largely inconsistent, and can almost certainly be discounted. Indeed, his utterances all appear to be little more than attempts to say what the party thinks his various audiences want to hear. And both the ANC and Zuma himself continue to shy away from endorsement of any kind of decisive action, never mind undertaking any such action themselves.

    April 26 2008 – The Onging Saga of the An Yne Jiang

    The Chinese ship carrying a cargo of arms destined for Zimbabwe has docked in Luanda. It has done so after days of misinformation regarding its intentions both on the part of the owners and of the Chinese government. So much effort has gone into reaching Angolan territory, that it is naïve to assume that, Angolan assurances notwithstanding, the arms will not be offloaded (by the Angolan Military if necessary) and delivered to their destination, most probably by air.

    En route the An Yne Jiang is alleged to have turned off its transponder, making it difficult if not impossible to track its movements by conventional means (a thought-provoking action in itself). South Africa, however, retains a substantial capacity for coastal reconnaissance – but quite extraordinarily, given the importance which this ship has acquired, the Defence Force claims that no such reconnaissance was ordered. (More recent evidence suggests that South Africa did in fact maintain close contact with the ship, possibly to the extent of using the Navy’s supply vessel the Drakensberg to re-fuel the An Yne Jiang off the Cape coast while en route to Angola.)

    It is significant that the governments of Tanzania, Mozambique and Namibia all declined to allow the arms shipment to be landed in their countries. In South Africa however, it was civil society which procured a court order preventing transshipment of the arms, after the government had claimed it had no jurisdiction to interfere, and after the necessary clearances had been provided with almost unseemly haste. All of this is to me further evidence of the South African government’s complicity in efforts to maintain ZANU-PF in power in Zimbabwe.

    Arms Shipment Finally Delivered?

    On April 29th the Nyasa Times reported that Malawi was assisting in the clearance the arms shipment on the An Yne Jiang, and helping to ensure its delivery from Luanda to Harare. So much for Angolan assurances that the arms would not be offloaded!

    At about the same time, reports began to come in of the so-called “war veterans” and other irregulars being armed by the Zimbabwean military with AK47 rifles and other weapons. It seems highly improbable that this arming process could have been carried out had the arms shipment not finally reached its Harare destination. And then – surprise, surprise – the release first of the parliamentary vote recount and then of the results of the presidential election were suddenly accelerated (relatively speaking). Presumably the fortified and re-armed Junta no longer felt the need for delaying tactics, as the arrival of the arms placed them in an excellent tactical position.

    Unsurprisingly the results of the Zimbabwean presidential election have almost certainly been massaged so as to ensure no absolute victory for the Opposition, thus necessitating a run-off between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. Some early estimates based on tallies published at polling stations gave Tsvangirai as much as 58% of the vote, and Mugabe as little as 27% (even though the MDC claimed no more than 50.3%). The final “official” tally gave Tsvangirai 47.9% versus Mugabe’s 43.2% – small wonder that the figures were received with general skepticism.

    The newly-re-armed Militia – police, army, security forces and irregulars such as the ‘war vets’ – are now in a position literally to wage civil war against the MDC, making a fair outcome to the run-off quite impossible and giving the Junta an excellent opportunity to claw its way back into the ascendancy.

    Everything, in other words, appears to be going nicely according to plan. China’s plan, that is. Mbeki is whinging that Britain is interfering with his ‘quiet diplomacy’ – which, when one considers that Britain appears to favour a fair result to the elections which Mbeki quite clearly seeks a ZANU-PF victory – is probably quite accurate.

    It would seem that the only thing that can prevent a massive victory for Chinese colonialism in Zimbabwe and the sub-region now, is the deployment of literally thousands of international peacekeeping troops and election observers in the approach to the presidential election run-off. And this, considering the vast cost of such a huge exercise (not to mention the lack of cooperation likely to be experienced from both South Africa and the Zimbabwean Junta) is very, very unlikely to materialize.

    African Democracy, R.I.P.


  4. With a bit of luck, the ship is on its way back to SA under navy escort. Not sure whether this is the case or whether it received fuel during the wee hours of the morning and sailed away.

    Thanks to sat. the ship is being tracked. The navy is however mum on its whereabouts…

  5. agreed. chinese troops are already in zim, the weapons are possibly to bolster them.

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