The Mark of the Dragon: China in Zimbabwe…and Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Malawi

There remains an uneasiness among those of us who have remained as close as is humanly possible to the movement of the An Yue Jiang with its shipment of weapons from China to Zimbabwe. Uneasiness, that stems from the extent of Chinese involvement in the SADC countries, and the fact that most of these countries are unofficially ‘Chinese Colonies’.

Methinks we have lost the plot. We keep looking to the African countries surrounding Zimbabwe for a solution. We look at Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Malawi to stop the weapons, mostly because these countries have proclaimed themselves as democratic states and have said that they are eager for peace in the region. But in Africa, saying and doing are two very different things and everybody seems to forget that these very countries are deeply – perhaps even too deeply – involved with the arms shipment’s country of origin to be in a position to do anything except obey the will of their master.

We chide China for their irresponsibility. A small rap over the knuckles, no more. And China, with an eye on the upcoming Olympics, plays the role of the reprimanded gracefully – withdrawing the errant ship, or at least pretends to do so.

They are smiling to themselves, I am sure. Not in embarrassment, but in glee. The West is wrong – again.

China: Africa’s New Partner
You see, China was busy with other things while the rest of the world was busying them with the Middle East and with Eastern Europe. China found somebody to play their own brand of Monopoly with: Africa. And true war masters that they are, the Chinese had their strategy in place long before joining the game. In true Sun Tzu style, they chose each of their battlegrounds with care and won each piece of additional territory without a single shot being fired.

The countries they targeted were easy marks. They were all dead broke, run by kleptocrats (to varying degrees) and heavily indebted to the IMF. The terms imposed by the IMF did not necessarily suit their peculiar brands of democracy. And, considering from whence the IMF funding comes, the terms of these loans have instilled growing resentment towards the haves of the ‘imperialistic’ West.

Hence, when the Chinese arrived on their white dragons, bearing millions upon millions of Dollars in gifts, loans and advances, (initially no strings attached) they were received like long lost brothers – liberators from their imaginary foe, the West. But money, like any other opiate, could be addictive – and, as has been proven time and again, the addicted ends up becoming the lackey of the supplier. In Africa, the extent of the submission depends on the extent of the addiction.

Money is Sun Tzu’s golden thread in this instance: the thing that unites the senseless gluttony of these African leaders and the Chinese hunger for territory, commodities and power.

Want to know why I am uneasy about Angola? Read on.

China: The Angolan Puppeteer
trenched itself in Angola. The CSIS, in their recent report on the Angola China relations, tried to provide a (too) balanced view of the involvement of the Chinese in this country, with China’s involvement made out to be benevolence in exchange for crude oil. Now, I would call China many things, but benevolent isn’t one of these. They have been putting money into Angola, and they want something in return. Full stop. There is no such thing as free Chop Suey.

In addition to oil (Angola is the largest supplier of crude to China – 8.48 million metric tons in the first three months of this year alone), there are diamonds. And, in addition to diamonds there is employment for Chinese nationals. In a country that sports a ginormous unemployment figure, the number of Chinese nationals employed in Angola has increased from 192 in 2004 to 22,043 in 2007. 22,043 jobs that could have moved Angolan nationals from below the breadline to above it – jobs that are filled by people who cannot string two words in Portuguese together, and nearly as little in English. Get the picture?

Vast sums of money have been made available to Angola by the Chinese. Very little has filtered down towards improving conditions for the person on the street. Scholarships to China were donated to ‘enhance Angolan skills’. These only served to enhance the family members of parliamentarians’ skills.

The desire for arms and weapons (Chinese supplied of course) supersede the need of the populace for food. The need to reconstruct the railway between Benguela and Luanda (with Chinese money for Chinese ends) is greater than the need of the population for shelter, basic healthcare and education.

The Dos Santos regime is nominally democratic and but a small margin away from being a one party state. In fact, he could be a Mugabe understudy.

And China? Well, China has proven time and again that they do not particularly care about the fabric of a country’s leadership. The more corrupt the easier it is for them to get around. And, as usual they have no qualms about propping up a dictator as long as he is willing to dance under the big red puppeteer’s skilful hands.

In Closing

So, will Eduardo dos Santos really only allow construction material to be off-loaded? If construction material is indeed part of the cargo carried by the An Yue Jiang…

With things being as they are – and I do hope I am wrong – I would be pleasantly surprised if the alleged construction material does not pan out to be destruction material in the end.

The An Yue Jiang: Lloyds MIU Responds

Note: For background, refer to my blogs on the Zimbabwe China Arms Deal. The An Yue Jiang, which is carrying weapons from China that are destined for Zimbabwe, and that is thought to be heading to Angola, featured prominently in the last few blogs.

The An Yue Jiang, that was added to the Lloyds list on the 20th of April, disappeared off the casualties list of Lloyds MIU this morning. The last entry on the five-ship free portion of the site that remained after the An Yue Jiang was moved or removed, was a vessel that was reported as a casualty on the 19th of April 2008 – 1 day before the An Yue Jiang.

I requested access to Lloyds MIU by using an online form, but was denied on the grounds that Lloyds “only grant trial access to companies with a legitimate business need“. I suppose being a writer makes me less legitimate than most :).

The correspondence
Then, on my WordPress Blog’s Comments, up popped a message from Lloyds themselves. Mark Hankey, their representative, had the following to say:

“We never stated that the vessel sank.

We called it a casualty as it failed to discharge its cargo in the manner it expected. This is normal practice for us as we supply a lot of data to the insurance market and this type of information is of use to them.

We currently have no knowledge of the vessel being refuelled/bunkered or being detained by any navy.”

I then emailed Mr. Hankey, asking him the following:

“Thank you very much for the update you provided to my blog. I would like to publish it, but before I do please can you help me understand:

1. You added it to the list as a casualty because it did not dispose of its cargo as expected. Correct?

2. Could you please let me know why it was taken off the casualty list? Did it dispose of its cargo? Or are there are criteria used?

3. I just want to point out that we never stated that it sank. We merely speculated that the vessel may have run out of fuel as it was not allowed to take in fuel at Durban (it was anchored some 12km outside the port).”

In return, I received the following response from Mr. Hankey (Mr. Hankey’s reponse is in red):

“1. You added it to the list as a casualty because it did not dispose of its cargo as expected. Correct? – correct

2. Could you please let me know why it was taken off the casualty list? Did it dispose of its cargo? Or are there are criteria used? – it’s still there, but due to the timing it has been superseded by more recent casualties on the free part of the database
3. I just want to point out that we never stated that it sank. We merely speculated that the vessel may have run out of fuel as it was not allowed to take in fuel at Durban (it was anchored some 12km outside the port). – cool. Sorry for the misunderstanding. ”

The quandary
I am very grateful that Lloyds took the time to point out that the ship is indeed still on the casualties list. Now there remains but one issue – one that I find hard to get to grips with:

From the outset, I want to make it clear that I am in no position to personally verify whether the ship is still on the list or not because I could not get access to the database, so I am giving Lloyds the benefit of the doubt in this respect. There is no reason not to.

The only things that still bug me (and I regret not having taken thorough notes this morning) are:
(1) that the An Yue Jiang was superseded before an older casualty (the 19th of April casualty) was superseded, and
(2) that it took some 24 hours (perhaps longer) for Lloyds to list the ship after it failed to discharge is cargo in an expected manner.

These are questions I hope to clarify with Mr. Hankey during subsequent correspondence, provided that he will humour more questions from me.

The low-down
So, considering Lloyds’ feedback:

We should not necessarily assume that the vessel has run out of fuel.
We should not necessarily assume that it stopped its slow fuel-saving voyage to Luanda.
We should not necessarily assume that the vessel is headed towards Luanda.
We should not necessarily assume that it has been refuelled.
We should not assume that the ship still carries cargo, and we should not assume that it does.
Finally we should also not assume that the ship has been intercepted by any navy or that it is being led back towards any port – naval or commercial.

But that is not all…

Just where is the An Yue Jiang? The Navy won’t tell and Lloyds cannot tell.
Why is the route suddenly such a secret?
Is the cargo still on board? No response on that one either.
And, why all the attention…even my couple of newbie, basic, itty-bitty blogs are being flooded. And, some of the visitors appear not to be popping by out of curiosity only.

Right now there are simply too many questions and not a single answer to show for it.

PS. Original comment published on my WordPress Blog. You can follow the link from here.

China Zimbabwe Arms Deal: An Yue Jiang now removed from casualty list at Lloyds MIU

The controversial Chinese ship, the An Yue Yang, which is bearing 77 tonnes of arms and weapons destined for Zimbabwe, set sail from Durban without refuelling. When the vessel was reported as a casualty yesterday morning (GMT+2), it confirmed Jasa’s (Justice Alliance of South Africa) suspicions that the An Ye Jiang had insufficient fuel to reach its destination: Luanda, Angola.

Navy sources said that although the ship switched off its transponder when it left the harbour, it was being tracked via satellite by the South African Navy, the South African Police Services, Interpol and other international intelligence organisations. The navy did not wish to comment on the exact location of the An Ye Jiang at that time. (Source: Beeld)

A rough calculation based on a sea speed of approximately 30km/h, would have taken the ship to Luanda by Tuesday evening. Assuming that it had indeed sailed towards Luanda, the ship will have been located somewhere between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town when it (perhaps ran out of fuel, and) was added to the register.

Now, somewhere between midnight and 8am (GMT+2) today, the controversial arms ship was removed from the Lloyds MIU Vessel Casualty register.

There are only two possible reasons for this: The ship may have been clandestinely refuelled during the night or it may have been intercepted by the Navy. If the latter holds true, the ship could be escorted to one of the commercial harbours or, considering the controversies surrounding the vessel, it may even be taken into a naval harbour instead.

Until the Navy decides to offer further information, all we can do is wait.

China Zimbabwe Arms Deal: An Yue Jiang reported as casualty at Lloyds MIU

The controversial weapon carrier, An Ye Jiang set sail from Durban Harbour without refuelling which, according to Jasa (Justice Alliance of South Africa), means that it is unlikely to have sufficient fuel to reach Luanda in Angola.

The ship switched off its transponder when it left the harbour and was seen shortly afterwards heading down the coast of South Africa in a southerly direction. Jasa requested that the ports at East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town be placed on alert to ensure that fuel is not clandestinely supplied to the vessel.

It seemingly disappeared until it suddenly appeared 11 hours ago as a casualty on the Lloyds MIU Vessel Casualty register. Does this mean that the ship has run out of fuel as predicted or is it a clever ruse to get hold of fuel without having to re-enter South African waters? Once it has fuel, the Chinese weapons carrier could yet again switch off the transponder and disappear into the blue wide yonder.

Shortly before the order was obtained from the Durban High Court, which prohibited the off-loading and transporting of the arms, another application was filed by the state owned German Bank, which requested that the arms cargo be attached in lieu of an unpaid 40million Euro loan extended in 2000 to the state-owned Zimbabwe Iron and Steel company. The order too was granted.

Should the ship enter South African waters, this order could be executed.

There is also a further option. Navy intervention is possible according to Jasa. The Alliance indicated that should the ship enter South African waters, it could be arrested and taken into one of our harbours. The Jasa spokesman continued to say that: “The arms must then be put in bond until assurances are obtained from the Chinese Government that they will be returned to China. Any promise from the ship owner is insufficient as it becomes unenforceable the moment the ship leaves SA territorial waters. The captain may say he is going home and yet immediately sail for Angola once he has fuel in his bunkers.”

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.

Zimbabwe: The Chinese Arms Saga Continues

The saga of the weapons cargo carried by the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, continues after the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) announced yesterday that their members will neither unload the ship, nor transport the deadly freight to Zimbabwe. The Union also indicated that they were going to approach the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for support. Indications are that a further Union may join they fray. The United Transport and Allied Trade Union, told reporters that their members were not happy about the arms shipment and that they will be taking a firm decision in this regard shortly.

In spite of the strong resistance offered by the unions and equally strong criticism from a variety of bodies inside the country, the South African government appears to be doing their level best to get the arms to Zimbabwe. To resolve the logistics, they will be using Armscor (SA government owned) to get the job done.

The SA Government acts as Mugabe’s Forwarding and Clearing Agent
Here are three glaring anomalies:

Anomaly 1
Normally, cargo cleared at a Port of Entry, is fetched and carried by the importer’s own devices and not fetched and carried by the government of the day. At the same time, Maseko sticks to his original story: “South Africa is not at all involved in the arrangement: it’s a matter between the two countries.”

Would you agree with Maseko that carting Mugabe’s weapons equals not at all involved with the arrangement? No reasonable person would…

Anomaly 2
Normally, well before cargo that consists of arms and weaponry is shipped, a conveyance permit will be sought by the exporter. No conveyance permit was requested by China before shipment because said shipment was rushed: it left China on the 15th of March and arrived in Durban on the 10th of April 10. An urgent conveyance permit was issued by Defence Secretary January Masilela (and herein lies the irony) in between sittings of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC). Then Maseko commented that “It would be possible, but very difficult for South Africa to start intervening and saying that we will not allow the shipment through.”

Would you agree with Maseko that he could not stop or at least seriously delay the shipment? Considering the lack of paperwork, BOTH Masilela and Maseko had every opportunity. Any reasonable person would have found a way to cause a delay…

Anomaly 3
The very same NCACC chaired by January Masilela has a policy NOT to export weapons, arms and ammunition into conflict areas or to countries (to quote there policy verbatim) where “systematic violation or suppression of humanitarian rights and fundamental freedoms” exist. Masilela still went ahead and issued the permit AND defended the decision by saying that the violence etc. in Zimbabwe was nothing more than allegations. He might as well have said ‘conjecture’.

Would you agree that Masilela ALSO had the ability, given the NCACC policy and the strife in Zimbabwe, to stop the shipment? Any reasonable person would say ‘Yes…”

Then what is the Low Down
Weapons kill. That is their only purpose in the hands of an army that is already perpetrating violence, intimidation, torture and murder. By allowing the weapons to land on our soil and facilitating its shipment into Zimbabwe, President Mbeki and his henchmen will be complicit to every life taken and for every person harmed by any one of these bullets and grenades on the cargo list.

The pride I feel to be South African in view of the preparedness of the Unions to make a stand and do the right thing, and the pride I feel to be South African as more and more Groups/Bodies/Parties step forward condemning the SA government’s handling of the Zim / China Arms Crisis, are in stark contrast with the feeling of shame I am filled with by our government’s shoddy behaviour: their blatant, wilful denial of the truth; the lies that are being perpetuated in defence Mugabe – who is nothing more than an ego-driven murdering maniac; and that now, when Mr. Mbeki’s leadership and moral fibre are needed most, all we as South African citizens are witnessing is his pathetic grovelling at the feet of his erstwhile comrade and mentor, Robert Mugabe.

It is a shame indeed…