Union rubbishes Zimbabwe government claims received Chinese arms
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) on Tuesday rejected claims by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government that it had taken possession of a consignment of Chinese weapons.
A Chinese-registered vessel, the An Yue Jiang, caused a furore when it dropped anchor off the South African port of Durban last month with 77 tonnes of arms and ammunition for Zimbabwe.
Under pressure from unionized dock workers, several southern African ports boycotted the ship on the grounds that the weapons might be used against civilians in a post-election crackdown on Zimbabwe's opposition. The ITF spearheaded the protest, the dpa reported.
"The vessel has been nowhere near DR Congo or Congo-Brazzaville," ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said in a statement referring to reports in Canal de Mocambique newspaper that the ship had offloaded its cargo in Ponta Negra, Democratic Republic of Congo.
"This (delivery of the arms) is a recycled claim he made two weeks ago," Cockroft said, referring to deputy Zimbabwean information minister Bright Matonga's reported claims that the weapons had been delivered via the port of Lobito in Angola.
"In their attempts to get these arms Zanu-PF (Mugabe's party) have been publicly beaten - something they should be getting used to by now," Cockroft added.
China's foreign ministry last month announced the ship had been recalled by its owner after it failed to make delivery. ITF said Tuesday the ship was "on a course consistent with a return to China", without giving a location.
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) defeated Mugabe's Zanu-PF in March 29 parliamentary elections. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai also took more votes than Mugabe for president but not enough for an outright victory, according to the official count.
Since the elections Mugabe supporters have been accused of killing over 40 opposition members and injuring hundreds of MDC supporters in retribution for their vote.