Ship with arms for Zimbabwe flees Durban port: report

April 19th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by admin  

Johannesburg, April 19 (DPA) A Chinese ship that was carrying arms for Zimbabwe hurriedly left Durban harbour in South Africa after a local court ordered that its cargo could not be transported overland across South Africa, reports said. The An Yue Jiang lifted anchor after the Durban High Court Friday ruled that its shipment of weapons and ammunition could be offloaded but could not be transported across South Africa to Zimbabwe, SAPA news agency reported.

It was not clear where the ship, which was carrying 70 tonnes of arms for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, was headed. Zimbabwe has previously imported weapons through Beira port in Mozambique.

The court order was granted on an application brought by an Anglican bishop and an activist under the National Conventional Arms Control Act (NCACC).

Dock workers had been refusing to offload the cargo, which included millions of bullets for AK-47 rifles, mortar bombs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, on the grounds that to do so would be “grossly irresponsible”.

The ship had been anchored just outside the port since at least Monday, according to SAPA, which said the vessel was owned by state Chinese company Cosco Group.

An investigative magazine in South Africa, Noseweek, sounded the alarm over its cargo and its destination Wednesday.

Opposition parties had pleaded with the government not to issue a conveyance permit for the shipment given the tensions in Zimbabwe caused by three-week wait for presidential election results. The government said the permit had been issued as far back as Monday.

Since the European Union placed Zimbabwe under an arms embargo in 2002, President Robert Mugabe has sourced much of his weapons in China, which he calls Zimbabwe’s “all-weather friend”.

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