South African workers refuse to move arms bound for Zimbabwe

South African Transport Union members have announced they will not offload Chinese arms that are being shipped to crisis-torn Zimbabwe.

Submitted by dara on April 18, 2008

A boat carrying an arms shipment destined for Zimbabwe is anchored at the South African port of Durban. However the South African Transport Workers' Union has already announced that their members will not offload any of the cargo, nor will any of their truckers transport it. The shipment containing "3 million rounds of ammunition for AK47 rifles (the standard assault weapon for the country's defence forces), 1,500 rocket propelled grenades, a support weapon for the infantry, and 3,500 mortar bombs is one of two coming from Chinese para-statal Ocean State Shipping company, the other of which is reported as being en route to Beira, Mozambique.

Amidst reports that AK47 wielding supporters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF roam the country attempting to intimidate opposition supporters, and President Mugabe remaining adament he will remain in power, the South African trade unionists have announced they disagree with South Africa remaining neutral in the conflict, and have refused to move the arms that they believe could be used against opponents of Mugabe.

The South African Government is refusing to intervene in the transportation of arms, saying that any interference would jeopardise their role in facilitating talks with Mugabe. After several private logistics firms backed out of transporting the shipment, citing the inability of the Zimbabwean Government to pay, South African state-owned Armscor's transport wing, AB Logistics has been approached with the job. South African Defence secretary January Masilela confirmed that the scrutiny committee of the national conventional arms-control committee, which he chairs, had approved the conveyance permit already, and that the cargo would need to be inspected and have a permit endorsed by the committee when it meets next month.

It has also been reported that 10 Chinese soldiers armed with pistols have been seen in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.