Wonder why the Zimbabwe government suddenly finds itself needing 3 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition?
The health minister needs to reload.
ZIMBABWE’S Health Minister armed himself with a Kalashnikov and threatened to kill opposition supporters forced to attend a political meeting unless they voted for Robert Mugabe in a second round of the presidential election, witnesses say.
And I thought campaigning in Pennsylvania had gotten rough.
McGreal’s story, titled “It’s Mugabe or death, voters told” focuses on a climate of rising rural violence, designed to intimidate MDC supporters in a second round of voting. Many of these attacks have occurred in Mashonaland East province, a traditional ZANU-PF stronghold, and the home of the armed and dangerous minister, David Parirenyatwa.
There’s a growing body of photographic evidence to support reports that opposition supporters are being detained and beaten. Sokwanele, a Zimbabwean activist group based in Bulawayo, is maintaining one of the world’s most disturbing photo albums, a collection of photos of citizens hospitalized for injuries they received in beatings. The most recent photos are of a 38-year old man, beaten with chains and fan belts to punish him for driving citizens to MDC rallies before the election. (The previous two links lead to graphic and disturbing images.)
This is useful context for understanding the saga of the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese vessel carrying 3 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, rocket propelled grenades and mortar rounds for delivery to the Zimbabwean government. The ship attempted to dock at Durban, a South African port, but a strike by South African transport workers and a court decision banning transit of the weapons through South Africa forced the vessel to find another port.
It was reported to be headed for Maputo, Mozambique, but pressure from international trade unions evidently helped the Mozambique government refuse to allow the vessel to dock. It appears that Angola may be a destination for the ship, though the port authorites in Luanda say that the ship hasn’t requested permission to dock.
The ship reportedly turned off its transponder after leaving port in Durban, making it much harder to track. There was speculation that the ship had run our of fuel enroute to Luanda, as it briefly appeared on the Lloyd’s List casualty register – according to blogger “Word Wright”, the vessel was removed from the register this morning, suggesting that it was either refueled at sea or intercepted by the South African navy.
The latter would be very good news, as South Africa’s image as a fair broker in the region has taken some serious hits based on Thabo Mbeki’s insistence that “quiet diplomacy” instead of condemnation was the appropriate way to handle the situation. His insistence that the situation did not constitute a crisis has led to some humorous responses, including a recent strip of Madam and Eve, a popular South African cartoon. (Tip of the hat to Muhammed Karim, writing on Global Voices.)
As the situation spirals into an uglier and uglier configuration, perhaps humor is the best solution. The “recount” appears to be litte more than naked election rigging, as independent observers report that every recounted ballot box has been tampered with. As violence increases and the threat of arms delivery raises the stakes for anyone brave enough to vote MDC, the notion of a fair runoff election becomes harder and harder to take seriously.
So, with that in mind, some jokes from Alex Magaisa with Kubatana (with my annotations for those who don’t closely follow Zim politics:
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC presidential candidate): Because it wanted a taste of life on the other side of the road. It was exercising its right.
Patrick Chinamasa (ZANU-PF minister of justice): No. The chicken did not cross the road. In fact we need to verify whether in fact it was a chicken. As far as we know, the chicken is still there. It could have been an eagle. We have to wait until verification is done.
Didymus Mutasa (ZANU-PF Minister of State): I do not think it crossed the road. If it crossed the road it’s because the white farmer dragged it. But we cannot allow that to happen. It will have to come back.
Joseph Chinotimba (noted war veteran, credited with leading invasions of white-owned farms): The kichen, no, chicken is a sell-out against the revolution. The ‘O’ vets will have to eat it!
Robert Mugabe (perpetual president of Zimbabwe): The chicken will never be allowed to cross the road. Not in my life time! Let those that run away to Bush and Brown do so. Not my chicken! My chicken will never cross the road. It will never be colonised again!
Thabo Mbeki (president of South Africa): Er … uhm … I don’t see any chicken at the moment … Er … I think it is right for us to wait and see. Let things take the natural course. If if it did cross the road we will be told officially. If it wants to cross the road we will see it when it crosses. There is nothing to talk about at the moment … Er … I don’t see any problem right now.