Zimbabwe takes delivery of 20,000 AK-47's from China

A Southern African bulletin focusing on political and economic intelligence issues is reporting that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has taken delivery of "the first of several consignments of Chinese small arms and equipment."

The southernafricareport.com says that the consignment has been negotiated by Defence Minister Emerson Mnangagwa and includes 20,000 AK-47 automatic rifles, uniforms, 12-15 trucks and about 21,000 pairs of handcuffs. With elections said to be looming next year the development is set to generate a lot of concern.

China has been supplying Mugabe's regime with weapons for some time, especially after western governments imposed an arms embargo over ZANU PF's gross human rights abuses. In 2008 six container-loads of small arms and equipment, destined for Zimbabwe aboard the China Ocean Shipping Company vessel the An Yue Jiang, were blocked from being unloaded in Durban by South African trade unions.

Another attempt to have arms equipment delivered to Zimbabwe from China was thwarted in April 2011. This time the consignment, containing AK-47 ammunition, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades, was addressed to Abaxis Enterprises, a company owned by Neville Mutsvangwa, the son of the former Ambassador to China, Christopher Mutsvangwa.

According to the Southern Africa Report: "After Mozambican trade unionists informed their counterparts in Harare, the containers were reportedly never collected." It was only in March this year that Defence Minister Mnangagwa told local journalists that the army was looking for arms, but was struggling to acquire them because of the arms embargo.

Given this history of failed deliveries, it would appear the latest reported delivery of arms was done via an unidentified intermediary. The indirect route was also intended to keep the deliveries below the radar of Western governments. A second consignment of arms is said to be due before the end of the year.

Cooperation on military equipment between Mugabe's regime and China has been at an all time high given the country's international isolation. Southern Africa Report says that since 2004 China has sold to Zimbabwe 139 military vehicles and 24 combat aircraft. During Zimbabwe's involvement in the war in the DRC, China sold to Mugabe at least US$66 million worth of small arms.

This year controversy has also surrounded a US$97 million dollar Chinese loan to help build a Defence College outside Harare. The college being constructed by a Chinese company has been described as nothing but a 'giant spy centre' which will help prop up Mugabe's regime.

That particular deal bonded Zimbabwe to a 20 year arrangement where Marange diamonds are to be used to pay off the loan. Critics say such huge sums of money should have been used to fund more critical areas, like health and education. – SW Radio Africa

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