Mi24 Fighter

Ready for the attack. Mugabe ordered seven of these Russian assault helicopters, armed with guns, rockets and bombs.

Secret imports of attack helicopters and weapons revealed
Mugabe' Chinese and US arms deals go bad

Robert Mugabe has no plans to relinquish power and has been surreptitiously buying weapons ready for full-scale armed conflict, according to secret dossiers

Information given to The Zimbabwean on Sunday reveals that Mugabe placed a clandestine order for 10 Russian military helicopters with a United States-based businessman, who was arrested this week.

The US businessman, Peter Spitz (70), now faces charges of trying to sell 10 Russian military helicopters equipped with guns, rockets and bombs to Zimbabwe in defiance of a US military embargo which bars sale of weapons to Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean on Sunday understands Spitz appeared in a Federal Court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday.

An affidavit says the order for seven MI-24 Russian attack helicopters and three MI-8T Russian military transport helicopters had been placed by the ‘commercial entity set up by a cabinet member of the [Zimbabwe] government.

Zimbabwe reportedly made a test’ deposit of US$11,000 to Spitz’s Russian Aircraft Services LLC in separate accounts at Colonial and Wachovia banks on April 3.

Those transactions established Spitz’s intent to sell the helicopters to Zimbabwe, in violation of federal law. According to a criminal affidavit, the price for each helicopter was quoted at US$750,000.

In another deal, a ship laden with arms of war destined for Zimbabwe docked in Durban on April 14, but the authorities refused to clear it because it did not meet their procedures.

Durban harbour spokesperson Ricky Bhikraj said a Chinese vessel had entered the port without clearance and was currently docked at the outer anchorage. The ship – An Yue Jiang – was carrying a consignment comprising a variety of arms destined for Zimbabwe.

We can confirm that there is an uncleared vessel by that name currently at the outer anchorage. The allegations are being handled by the various national security authorities, Bhikraj said.

There is a normal process for all ISPS (International Ship and Ports Security) vessels to be cleared to enter the port.

The weapons are being ordered as a military junta has taken charge of the day-to-day running of the country, with Mugabe as its civilian head. Two hundred soldiers have been deployed in the countryside where they are unleashing a reign of terror, assaulting opposition activists who voted against Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) and grabbing the last remaining white farms using brute force.

Economy set to plummet, warn analysts


The country’s precarious economy is set to continue its nose-dive, analysts said this week.

Euphoria following the announcement that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had powered its way into a parliamentary majority, winning more than half of all contested seats, was giving way to the sober recognition that Mugabe intended to cling onto power and preside over an economy in shambles.

He has illegally reinstalled his cabinet, despite apparent evidence that he has lost the presidential poll.

We still have a serious problem, said political analyst John Makumbe. If there is no change in the managers of the country, that’s not going to please investors.

Foreign investment has shrunk in the face of Mugabe’s uncertain policy agenda and the political instability and violence that has followed the elections.

A severe foreign currency shortage is intensifying, with official figures issued on Wednesday by the Central Statistical Offices showing inflation had raced up to 164,800 per cent and unemployment was still at around 80 per cent. Economists were forecasting that if Mugabe rigged himself back into power through the run-off he is planning, the economy would shrink by at least 10 per cent this year.

The crisis has been exacerbated by heavy government spending, including huge pay-outs to war veterans and cash to beef up the military.

Donors have suspended aid, and tourism has come to a virtual dead halt.

Since he is adamant that he is going nowhere, I think Mugabe should have a government of national unity to save the country, to save the economy, to save the people from starving. He can’t just ignore them, independent political commentator Ronald Shumba told The Zimbabwean on Sunday.

Tsvangirai however said this week he would not join a coalition government, despite hints in his election campaign to the contrary.

There had been wide hopes that the elections would lead to a badly needed economic turnaround for Zimbabwe. Instead, it appears the margins by which the opposition won and the determined efforts to recount ballots and overturn an opposition victory could scuttle the much yearned for economic recovery. The international community, which has withheld aid from Zimbabwe for nearly eight years, is unlikely to change its mind barring a complete overhaul of government, most say.

I don’t think the IMF (International Monetary Fund) will come in any distant future, and change of parliament is significant but change of presidency is what is needed, said Admore Kambudzi, a political scientist .

If our economy is going to improve, we need both external and domestic investment, and we must have sufficient and complete (political) change which means a new president. That’s what the investors are waiting for, Kambudzi said.

It would be a very grave mistake for Mugabe to rig the run-off or declare himself winner when it is so clear that he has lost the vote dismally, said a businessman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Most agree however that Mugabe is likely to do just that.

Change of parliament does not matter as long as the policy-making body remains the government. You will have an open parliament, but a closed cabinet, said rights lawyer and political commentator Brian Kagoro.

Mugabe is the problem facing this country, said another analyst, adding: The future is bleak with him.

Two journalists freed, another arrested

Press harassment mounts as media focus on Zimbabwe


A Harare magistrate this week freed two reporters arrested while covering Zimbabwe’s general election, just as another freelance journalist was arrested for covering a strike organised by the president in waiting Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change.

Award-winning New York Times journalist Barry Bearak and British freelance journalist Steve Bevan left Harare on Wednesday after Magistrate Gloria Takundwa ruled that there were no legal grounds for their arrest.

Takundwa slammed the police in her ruling and said that the overzealous law enforcement agency had detained the two journalists for five days without an arrest warrant and contrary to the recommendations made by the acting Attorney General Bharat Patel.

However, police were meanwhile arresting freelance journalist Frank Chikowore, who was covering the MDC’s stayaway action. A bus had been burnt in Warren Park earlier that morning, and Chikowore was arrested along with 14 others and accused of arson. He was frog-marched back to his house where police confiscated his laptop, camera, and voice recorder. The reporter was held under police custody at Harare Central Police Station by the Law and Order Section, which works in close liaison with the spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

Press freedom groups have roundly condemned the arrest of Chikowore. Regional group Media Institute of Southern Africa and local journalists protested to the authorities.  

There is growing evidence of mounting State pressure on the press since the election and in the lead-up to a possible re-run.

Two South Africans working for a satellite television service company were released on Tuesday and immediately returned home after they were arrested by Zimbabwean police on March 27.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists criticised the pattern of arbitrary arrests of journalists.

We call on Zimbabwean authorities to end this pernicious trend, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

World must not allow stolen election, says Brown

Gordon Brown issued a powerful warning to the international community this week, saying that the world should not allow the Zimbabwean elections to be stolen by Robert Mugabe.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council in New York, Gordon Brown said no-one could believe that Mugabe had won the country’s presidential election.

He urged the international community to rally behind the cause of democracy in Zimbabwe and to help its people build a better future.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also spoke at the meeting of his deep concern at the uncertainty that had been created by the failure of the Zimbabwean authorities to announce the presidential election results more than two weeks since polling took place.

The session was chaired by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who listened impassively as Mr Brown delivered his speech. The two men had been due to hold bilateral talks ahead of the Security Council session but they were cancelled after Mbeki pulled out.

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