Zanu (PF) buys guns for war vets(01-02-07)

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - There is surreptitious gun-running between Zimbabwe and two regional allies, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), military officials said this week.
Sources revealed Zimbabwe was importing and massing an assortment of guns at army bases around the country

in a pre-emptive strike against planned opposition protests.
Namibia and DRC are helping Zimbabwe circumvent an international arms embargo to buy huge quantities of guns and bullets aimed at fortifying President Mugabe’s rule and crush any protests against plans by the 82-year-old leader to postpone the presidential ballot.
The arms embargo was imposed three years ago by the EU and the United States on President Robert Mugabe’s government because of its appalling human rights record.
Military sources said most of the guns have been arriving secretly at Suri Suri airbase in Chegutu before being distributed to other military bases.
The bulk of the weapons have arrived from the DRC in that country’s military cargo plane. The weapons consist of a significant portion of French-made guns, most of which, top government sources say, will be distributed to war veterans who are set to form the new reserve force as government moves to purge the army and only retain “loyal” soldiers. Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi was unavailable for comment.
The French Embassy in Harare denied that France was selling arms to Zimbabwe and said it had no knowledge of the arrival of French arms in the country. Embassy staff confirmed France sold arms to several African countries, which could in turn re-sell them to other countries.
The first secretary at the Namibian High Commission in Harare, said he had no knowledge of Namibia helping Zimbabwe to bust the arms embargo while the DRC’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mawampanga Mwanananga could not be reached for comment.
Authoritative military sources said the army would be training and arming war veterans who would soon form part of a reserve force being mooted by the Joint Operation Command. This exercise is understood to be the exclusive prerogative of a board of top war veterans appointed by President Mugabe recently. Members include retired army commanders Solomon Mujuru, Vitalis (Gava) Zvinavashe and Dumiso Dabengwa.
The Zimbabwean heard that a number of bases were being established for the war veterans throughout Zimbabwe, particularly in those areas without army camps.
The main objective would be to make it impossible for the opposition to campaign in rural areas and to pre-empt any opposition protests against the planned election merger.
The Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association (ZNWVA) provincial chairman Elphas Chitera told a press briefing that war veterans had fully thrown their weight behind the “harmonization of elections.”

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