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: Arms Ship leaves harbour. New destination: Mozambique?

Durban High Court Judge, Kate Pillay, ruled that the Chinese ship, An Yue Jiang, which is bearing 77 tons in arms destined for Zimbabwe, may not be off-loaded and that the arms may not be transported via South Africa. Soon after the judgement was made, the ship lifted anchor and left Durban harbour.

Considering the complete absence of an appeal and that Captain Sunaijun told the media that he was awaiting instruction from his ‘owner’, one cannot help bit assume that both the wily Chinese government and the desperate Mugabe government have some sort of a contingency plan in place.

Feasibility of a Contingency Plan
A contingency plan could involve setting sail to one of Zimbabwe’s only other two sea bordering neighbours: Mozambique and Tanzania. Tanzania is a ‘civil’ neighbour but not friendly enough to be prepared to handle this particular international political hotcake.

Considering this, Mozambique could prove to be the most feasible alternative.

Robert Mugabe and the Frelimo president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, have been firm friends since their freedom fighting days. They had shared enemies – the old Rhodesia, the old South Africa and the Imperialistic West – and shared friends – Cuba, communist USSR, North Korea and China.

It is reasonable to assume that Guebuza will probably be a little worried about repercussions (especially those appertaining to the substantial international grants the country is receiving), that could arise from transporting the arms through his country, but considering that he is highly unlikely to invoke his large South African neighbour’s political wrath, chances are really good that he will grant Mugabe the favour.

There are two ports in Zimbabwe that could potentially deal with the cargo: Maputo and Beira.

The challenge with using the larger, better equipped harbour of Maputo is that the cargo will still have to be transported by road to Beira before being loaded onto trains to Harare. The road between Maputo and Beira is not in a good condition, and there could also be some issues around finding enough trucks to get the job done.

Beira presents a far better option. Once the ship docks, the cargo could be transported by the Beira Railroad Corporation on the Machipanda line which runs through Malverna (Port of Entry between Mozambique and Zimbabwe) and which ends in Harare. The only other available railway line which runs from Beira, the Sena Line, will not be used, as it is not fully operational yet after it was partly destroyed by Renamo during the 80s.

Stopping the Shipment: What are the options?
The SALC: The SALC indicated that should the An Yue Jiang sail to Mozambique, they will seek remedy from the Mozambique courts. The challenge here is that the laws of that country may be insufficient in respect of matters such as these. There is also a very real chance that the courts could be influenced by Armando Guebuza not to grant such an application, even if the application could be granted under Mozambique law.
The Mbeki factor: As an influential economic partner of Mozambique, President Thabo Mbeki could exert diplomatic pressure on President Armando Guebuza not to allow the cargo to cross his soil. Considering that some of Mbeki’s cabinet members (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defence, Secretary of Defence) were some of the respondents in the urgent High Court applications yesterday, and that he has done less than nothing to manage the entire debacle the chances of Mbeki intervention is close to non-existent.
International pressure: Mozambique is the beneficiary of World Bank and IMF funding – funds that the country simply cannot do without. Both institutions could use this reliance on funding to stop Mozambique 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.

These three options are the only options available and none of them are great.

The best outcome will be if Mozambique – in view of international sentiment – had to offer China and Zimbabwe a polite, but firm “NAY! Considering how quickly the ship rushed away, there is a really good chance that they may have already secured a polite and firm “AYE!” instead.

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…

State Owned Zimbabwe Herald Praises Thabo Mbeki

Here is an excerpt from the Zimbabwe Herald today:

Mbeki deserves special honour
“… President Mbeki needs to be specially commended and honoured by the whole Zimbabwean leadership and people for the sterling work that he has been doing in the past eight years. His “quiet diplomacy” and “soft power”, are actually not as quiet as the world wants to believe.

The backlash against President Mbeki’s presidency and his own personality has been immense. This is why Zimbabwe, as we celebrate 28 years of nationhood today, should say a big “THANK YOU” to this gallant son of Africa, just as we are saying thank you again to our gallant sons and daughters who sacrificed limb and soul for the independence of this nation. There is no substitute for genuine friendship; just like there will be no substitute for homegrown, genuine regional co-operation and integration. The least we can do is name one of our roads after Cde Mbeki and give him the freedom of the City of Harare.

As Wafawarova put it: “President Mbeki has had to face the agony of eight-and-a-half years of a crisis-waving Britain, but the ever alert and revolutionary Mbeki has not been fooled, even once. He saw no crisis with the land reclamation . . . He saw no crisis with the 2000, 2002 and 2005 elections . . .”

Apart from his now famous “No crisis in Zimbabwe” statement, President Mbeki also made the same statement a week earlier when he told dinner guests in London: “We have been very pleased with the manner in which the elections were conducted; the opposition had access to every part of the country, there was no violence, no one was beaten up. You have a very serious effort by the people of Zimbabwe to resolve their problems, we could see there was a common spirit among them and that’s the sense we got. And in the conduct of the election none of the parties came back to us to intervene to say something was going wrong.”

Something wrong with this picture
One has to ALWAYS take whatever is said in this Mugabe-an mouthpiece with a couple of bags of salt because it perpetuates half truths and lies nearly all of the time. However, there is an old maxim that says: The enemy of my enemy is my friend and the friend of my enemy is my enemy… or something like that, at least.

Is Robert Mugabe busy blowing sunshine up Mbeki’s behind? Or is Mugabe viewing Mbeki as a friend because he has not, at the face of it, quite given in to the pressure from within and from without South Africa? Or is Thabo Mbeki being viewed as a real friend by Robert Mugabe because he has maintained his soft (or is it wet) approach to the land grabs and the election fixing over the years?

In the final paragraph above, Thabo Mbeki is quoted by the Herald to be saying that All is Well. This may indeed be quoted out of context, or some measure of poetic license may have been applied to it. Who knows? However, regardless of the context, saying that there was no violence etc on the day of the election and then failing to mention the extent of the violence in the nearly three weeks post election, is highly irresponsible, fairly manipulating and somewhat dishonest.

The Political Plague in Africa
Behind the words in the Herald, Mugabe’s imperialistic rhetoric and Mbeki’s deafening silence, is one of the reasons why democracy in Africa is such a resounding failure.

For some reason, some of the African governments have not quite heard the penny drop that when they are democratically elected, they ARE governments and NOT liberation movements any longer. Because the majority of the population support them and have legally and democratically illustrated such support, the whole boring story of Struggle, is neither relevant nor appropriate.

But, for some reason – perhaps it is an attempt to use the past to play the audience – these elected leaders don’t move on, don’t salute the past and embrace the future, and don’t lift their eyes to the horizon. Their regressive behaviour debilitates progressive behaviour. It kills growth and it kills development.

Countries such as Botswana have not stepped into this trap of self-pitying retrospective-ness. That is why their economy is sound, their political landscape stable and their incidence of crime very low when compared to the rest of the continent. Now, Ian Seretse Khama is carrying the torch, which he took over from Festus Mogae, which he took over Quett Masire, which he took over from Ian Khama’s father: Sir Seretse Khama. A torch that burns brightly and that should be viewed as an example of what can be achieved, (by doing the right things), by their counterparts in Africa.

President Mbeki has done many right things during his term, but he has also failed miserably in others – the latest being his inability to manage the abominable situation in Zimbabwe. Fortunately it is nearing the time for him to step down: time to allow somebody younger, somebody more visionary and somebody bearing less baggage to carry the South African torch forward. There is political talent enough in our country. And, when we hold our elections next year, may the best man…or woman…win.

Zimbabwe: Escalating Violence and China rushing to Mugabe’s aid

It may have been an oversight on the part of President Thabo Mbeki when he omitted the Zimbabwe issue from the agenda of the UN Security Council Meeting he is chairing, but considering said President’s loathe-ness to broach the issue, it probably was not.

The omission did not stop the Council attendees from raising the subject though. With the support of some of the western countries, UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon, pointed out that: “The Zimbabwean authorities and the countries of the region have insisted that these matters are for the region to resolve, but the international community continues to watch and wait for decisive action.”

The insistence of SADC leaders – Mbeki and Mugabe in particular – that it is an African issue that should be managed by Africans, was initially respected by the global community. Now, weeks later and with no progress to show, international pressure is mounting on Mbeki, whose ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach towards the problems faced by its neighbour is clearly failing.

Back in South Africa, the ANC too is indicating that they are losing their patience with Mr. Mbeki’s take on the issue. ANC president Zuma, in particular, expressed his concern that: “The region cannot afford a deepening crisis in Zimbabwe. The situation is more worrying now given the reported violence that has erupted in the country.”

Zanu-PF violence has indeed been escalating.

Incidents of Violence and Intimidation
1) The number of land grabs has increased to 120. Workers on the occupied farms have been severely beaten, chased off the lands and told that if they return they would be killed. The crops, so desperately needed by the country, are not being harvested and sheep, cattle and chickens are being slain indiscriminately. Police intervention, when called for, is not all that forthcoming.
2) At least 150 cases of torture have been treated by Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights members since the elections ended. This is the tip of the iceberg considering that most of these attacks take place in remote areas and that the overwhelming majority of victims don’t go for treatment.
3) At least two more MDC supporters were killed in Karoi and Mudzi respectively
4) In Magunje, a Chinese psychological torture method was employed by making villagers hold bullets while contemplating their reasons for voting MDC. They were then asked: “Do you want to start a war with Zanu PF?”
5) Mugabe’s private militia have been issued with army combat gear to prevent the victims from distinguishing official soldiers from his private militia.
6) In Magunje, two village elders who defied the threat from soldiers were stripped of their eldership by the soldiers.
7) Villages in the vicinity of Chatsworth and Chiguhuni were raided and polling agents who worked for the MDC during the elections were abducted.
8 ) More than 500 villagers’ houses were raided and set alight in Mutasa South.
9) An MDC supporter in Gokwe was admitted to hospital after having been shot in both legs.
10) In Seke, Zaka, Tsholotso and other rural areas, a group of war veterans wielding guns, threatened to kill those who voted for the opposition and their families.
11) More than 50 MDC members were arrested as a result of the MDC organised stay-away.
12) Students demonstrating against Mugabe at Bulawayo’s Nust University were beaten indiscriminately by police, which led to the demonstration turning into a riot.

The Chinese Factor
Cracks in Messrs. Mugabe and Mbeki’s ‘By Africans For Africa’ are showing. Over the past 24 hours, there have been at least two Zimbabwe-related incidents that sports direct Chinese involvement:

1) Confirmed: A Chinese ship bearing 77 tons in mortars, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades, destined for Zimbabwe, were cleared through customs in Durban today. This is in spite of the fact that international sanctions are in place, banning the sale of weapons to Zimbabwe. According to a US-based intelligence organisation, Zimbabwe has also recently bought trainer fighter jets, radar installations, fighter plans and military vehicles worth $240 million. When asked to comment on why the cargo is being cleared, January Masilela -who chairs the Scrutiny Committee of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) in addition to being our Secretary of Defence – said that it was a ‘simple’ transaction between Zimbabwe and China.

2) Confirmed: A group of Chinese soldiers were spotted working with Zimbabwean soldiers in the eastern border city of Mutare. According to the Holiday Inn in Mutare, both the Zimbabwean and the Chinese soldiers are staying in their hotel. The soldiers are armed with pistols, AK 47 rifles, batons, tear gas and water canons. According to the Holiday Inn, the group is booked to remain for a week.

China has everything to gain: A jab at the West, access to Zimbabwe’s largely untapped diamond, gold and platinum resources, and ivory.

These two incidents may well be the tip of yet another iceberg in the Zimbabwean sea. Considering the Chinese involvement in Zimbabwe, is the matter still regional and isolated to the SADC community? Or has it now formally graduated to an international level?

Regardless of the answer, ‘By Africans For Africa’, has acquired a false note in its repetitive chant…

The Mugabe… I mean… The Zimbabwe Herald Today

You have to read the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald to appreciate just how ridiculously extensive Mugabe-an control over this excuse-for-a-newspaper is. If the matter was not so serious, it could even be downright funny – like a good old April Fool’s Joke. His propaganda litters all the pages, at an enormous density per square inch. There is no attempt to camouflage it – on the contrary, it is right in your face.

 

The editor and the journalists are anonymous as are most of the sources quoted. The golden thread of the paper is that the mess Zim finds it in is no fault of Mugabe: There are strong conspiracy-type theory undertones; and everything and everybody other than Bob, are blamed. The underlying message is venom and hate. Not a pleasurable reading experience at all.

 

Here are some of the headlines forced on their captive readership today:

 

Headline 1: ‘Tsvangirai Begs for VP Post’ by anonymous Herald Reporters

“MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai asked Zanu-PF to accommodate him as one of the Vice Presidents in a government of national unity after being told by his advisors that a possible run-off with President Mugabe for the top job was not in his best interests, The Herald can reveal…”

Okay, you get the gist… the rest of the article – all 975 words – quoted a variety of sources – all of which were (naturally) anonymous and, to appease the Zanu-PF handler, a fair dollop of Anti-MDC Anti-Tsvangirai Anti-The-Rest-OF-The-Evil-World propaganda was added for good measure.

 

 

Headline 2: ‘Don’t withhold goods; Govt warns business’ by anonymous Herald Reporters

“GOVERNMENT expects the business sector to fulfil its social responsibility by ensuring continued supply of basic commodities as opposed to dabbling in politics as part of the regime change agenda, a senior official has said.”

This comes in the wake of the increasingly empty shelves in the Zimbabwean shops. So, what is the reaction of Mugabe? You are right, blame business for this and be silent about the fact that his government has not been importing enough Maize and that they are not exactly paying their Maize accounts either…  and, to be honest, the warning is not a warning, it is a threat…

 

Headline 3: ‘Let’s protect heritage during run-off’ by anonymous Editor

“Fellow Zimbabweans, as we head for a possible presidential run-off, let us make an informed decision best for the future generations and us.”

Starting with an impassioned appeal the remainder of the article launches into a full frontal attack on white settlers: past present and future. He pointed to the fate of Malawi under British influence and extolled the virtues of the Cubans. Anonymous editor neither made an attempt at disguising his racial hate speak, nor of his intentions to fuel it. Quite chilling, actually.

 

Headline 4: Poll results: Solve anomalies first by anonymous Editor

“I have been following election-related events over the past few days and conspiracies and counter-conspiracies that have been emerging over delays in announcing presidential poll results.”

Naturally, Editor blames it all on the MDC. He accuses them of rigging, tampering, yak, yak, yak… and then – as could be expected – dedicates the second half of the article to hurling a variety of personal insults at Morgan Tsvangirai.  

 

Headline 5: White Farmers Free to Apply for Land by {nobody}

“WE salute the police for moving in to stop the new wave of farm occupations that threatened to engulf the countryside, and war veterans for heeding police directives to move out of the farms they occupied in retaliation to threats by hordes of white former commercial farmers.”

Yup, hordes, I am sure…there were 4,000 to start of with, but that was a long, long time ago. Now there are only 300, minus 8, and they are spread all over the country. Be that as it may.., The article warns (or threatens, you decide) these imaginary hordes of farmers that:  ”…those who are lucky enough to still hold farms continue harbouring the unrepentant farmers without counselling against provocative actions, they only serve to brew mistrust in the State and the populace. This mistrust may culminate in a take-over of the remaining white-held farms for distribution to landless black Zimbabweans, many of whom are on the waiting list.” Then, in the very last sentence white farmers who have left Zim are invited to return where they can “apply for resettlement just like other citizens.” Need I say more? Perhaps, best that I don’t.

 

 

On the off-beat side, the property and entertainment sections of the newspaper were …well…empty. I wonder why?

 

Zimbabwe: The Showdown Has Begun

It is not even two hours after I told you that Zimbabwe might be an option for investment from a property perspective, should Tsvangirai manage to oust the despotic, murdering Mugabe regime. Now it appears that this particular prospect may well be a pipe dream.

I suppose that only the naive could believe that the Zimbabwean president would heed the outcome of any election that he could not substantially rig in his favour. From news articles released (read: Mugabe begins Zim crackdown at http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbabwe/0,,2-11-1662_2299749,00.html), it appears that this time is not an exception:

1) Tsvangirai’s proposed meeting with the current regime generals to reassure them of his honourable intentions under an MDC rule, were cancelled by the generals after being ordered to do so by Mugabe.
2) Mugabe sent his terror-inspiring Special Forces (CIO) and Police to raid the Meikles Hotel in Harare where the MDC had their temporary election offices. According to MDC officials, Tsvangirai is safe.
3) Mugabe declared that a presidential run-off ballot will, if necessary, take place within 90, instead of within the constitutional 21 days. Reliable sources on the ground seem to think that this delay will enable Mugabe to regroup his militia.
4) Foreign and local Journalists were arrested on pseudo-charges of practicing journalism sans licenses.

Where is this going to? For a great many years the rest of the world (and that includes South Africa), has stood by passively, watching how Zimbabwean citizens were being left to starve, and wilfully murdered by somebody who makes even some of the most notorious tyrannical rulers of the past, seem like saints. South Africa, I am afraid, bears the brunt of the guilt. Our president, Thabo Mbeki, has welcomed this political murderer and criminal into our country as a guest on many occasions, instead of censuring his actions as he should have.

The average South African has felt the impact of the influx of Zimbabweans into our country. There are not only a great many of these who come in seeking employment at the expense of the local population, but also a large amount of absconded Zimbabwean militia who come here to rob, rape and murder – something that is felt by everybody, from paupers to princes.

Perhaps, President Mbeki, you will come to your senses now and take the responsibility demanded from the leader of the strongest Southern African country.

Perhaps even, some other world powers will take pity on the people of Zimbabwe and step in to lend the support they so desperately need.

But then, perhaps not.

Like many other South Africans, my heart, my sympathy and my prayers are with you, the Zimbabwean people, right now.