ZIMBABWE - CHINA

Chinese ship endeavours to get weapons to Zimbabwe

The An Yue Jiang in a Japanese port. Photo: . (We couldn't find a recent amateur photo of the boat). Refused in South Africa and turned away from Mozambique, 77 tons of weaponry bound for Zimbabwe are now heading towards Angola in hope of access to land. Will the Chinese vessel succeed in reaching its final destination? Unions, lawyers and anti-arms activists hope not. Read more...

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The An Yue Jiang in a Japanese port. Photo: niraikanai.sakura.ne (We couldn't find a recent amateur photo of the boat).

Refused in South Africa and turned away from Mozambique, 77 tons of weaponry bound for Zimbabwe are now heading towards Angola in hope of access to land. Will the Chinese vessel succeed in reaching its final destination? Unions, lawyers and anti-arms activists hope not.

Shortly after Zimbabwe's doomed elections more than three weeks ago, desperate and unpopular president Robert Mugabe ordered three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled and over 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes from China. Last week, the An Yue Jiang arrived on the continent in Durban. But in the face of a 300,000-strong African union and refusal to transfer the goods from the country's high court, the ship fled on Friday. Its plan to offload in Mozambique was also rebutted and the vessel is now gambling on Angola, where it is thought to be headed. While Zambia's president urged everybody in the region to prevent the Cosco ship from docking on Monday, reports that it will offload to another vessel in the area have started circulating. Surrounding countries worry that the weapons will fuel escalating police brutality reported in Zimbabwe.

"If these weapons reach Zimbabwe there will be an immediate increase in violence"

Louise Rimmer works for the International Action Network on Small Arms, which has launched a petition to stop the arms shipment.

We're concerned about any shipment of weapons to any country. Guns are not only used to harm people; they're also used to facilitate acts of brutality. If these weapons reach Zimbabwe there will be an immediate increase in violence: torture, beatings, rape and intimidation. We've mobilised teams of human rights lawyers, churches and trade unions to stop them getting through any country. We're going to send the petition to every government in the region to show them that the whole world cares about this. We were successful on Friday - there's every reason to believe we will be successful again."

"The South African authorities are actively assisting in the delivery of arms to Zimbabwe"

Nicole Fritz is the director of the Southern African Litigation Centre which works to advance human rights in Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe.

We can't disclose where we get our information from but as far as we know the boat must be low on fuel because it's travelling at a reduced speed, which means it won't reach Angola until around Thursday. By then it will be forced to stop somewhere. What nobody seems to realise is that the ship is now travelling through South African waters, in clear violation of the court order issued on Friday. But although the authorities should be sending a Navy boat out, they haven't done anything. In fact they're actively assisting in the delivery of arms to Zimbabwe, and are making it difficult to track by giving out little information."

"The All-China Federation of Trade Unions is in support of us"

Randall Howard is the secretary-general of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), which refused to deal with the An Yue Jiang when it anchored in Durban.

My first reaction when the boat docked was that it should turn around and go back to Beijing. I didn't want our workers handling that cargo, and everyone was in agreement with me. We did what was natural and what was just. Now we're building a global campaign to ensure this vessel doesn't dock at any port. There might be a struggle, but we got rid of it here and we kept it out of Mozambique. Next stop Angola, and we're working for them.

Our government took a view on the matter which we didn't agree with. To reduce this issue to mere trade is simply irresponsible. I have no doubt that all South Africans support us. We've received thousand of messages of thanks - plus a few hundred of from Zimbabweans. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions is also in support of us. They have members on the boat who would certainly not be carrying those materials if they had any choice."