The An Yue Jiang sets sail from Luanda, Angola

It is no small victory for those in Zimbabwe and in the rest of the world who have been watching the weapon bearing An Yue Jiang with bated breath. It is also no small victory for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), whose members – in a display of solidarity – refused to unload the deadly arms shipment from China, both in Angola and South Africa. It is suspected that the weapons ordered by the Mugabe regime, were intended to support his re-election during the presidential runoff campaign.

The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) and the ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation), who played an active role in preventing the weapons from reaching Zimbabwe from the time that Noseweek broke the story some three weeks ago, remained in close touch with the Port Workers Union in Angola, who monitored all movements to and from the An Yue Jiang since it docked in Luanda. The Port Workers Union verified that only construction materials (cement etc.) destined for Angola were offloaded from the An Yue Jiang.

In their press statement, the International Taekwon-Do Federation told reporters that, under the watchful eye of Angolan Police, the An Yue Jiang refuelled, took on some supplies and set sail, with its controversial arms cargo still on board: destination China.

The International Taekwon-Do Federation also told the media that they will keep a watch on the movements of the ship and provide an update on its whereabouts later today.

Zimbabwe: The Runoff Election Farce

It is useless saying that the presidential runoff in Zimbabwe must be or should be free and fair because the truth of the matter is that it simply won’t be. If free encapsulates the human right of choosing freely, without blatant or latent threats of retaliation, and if fair comprises of all things equal and honest, then running a credible election in Zimbabwe is as credible as China’s denial of harming Tibetans (or baby girls for that matter).

Information from the beautiful country of Zimbabwe is scarce and getting scarcer by the day. Only isolated reports manage to find their way to those of us who live in the rest of the world – and then only in drips and drabs. Video footage has all but disappeared as those found recording anything that could be even remotely incriminating are cast into jails on one or another trumped up charge. This is a best case scenario. Some are poorly treated; others are tortured, while others still are killed.
Such is the transparency of the tyrant.

If commentators, spectators and journalists are too scared to venture into the hell hole of current day on-the-spot Zimbabwe politics, how can we expect the average Zimbabwean to play Zimbabwean Roulette with the Mugabe gun? The average Zimbabwean has parents, a husband or wife, children, grandchildren and friends. And, the average Zimbabwean knows that there is an un-penned law of oppression that states that your sins against Mugabe will visit you and those who are near and dear to you. In fact, it may even visit those who simply live near to you regardless of their political persuasions.

Such is the wrath of the tyrant.

Looking forward to runoff day, there will be relative peace. But looking towards the run-up towards runoff day, there won’t: Villagers will be tortured into submission using the techniques learnt from Mugabe’s Chinese handlers. In the sky smoke will rise from the homes and business burnt as a grim warning to those who dare to vote differently. The blood from wounds caused by Chinese supplied arms is set to flow across the Zimbabwean soil. And then, when all have been cowed, maimed, incarcerated and killed, runoff day will dawn quietly. Not with the quiet associated with contentment, but with the eerie quiet associated with death.
Such is the rule of the tyrant.

Is there hope?

Unless UN peacekeeping forces are deployed now and unless UN observers are present on the day and unless these UN observers guard the ballot until the results are released…the answer is…

!NO!

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.”

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…