HARARE – Revelations that South Africa sold weapons to Zimbabwe between April and July this year, have the potential of stirring trouble in the inclusive government.
They put South African President Jacob Zuma who is also Sadc facilitator and guarantor in the Zimbabwe political negotiations, into sharp focus.
South Africa issued permits worth 2,26 million rands to Zimbabwe for weapons for peacekeeping, military exercises, humanitarian aid and military training in Zimbabwe, according to the National Conventional Arms Control Committee’s (NCACC) report for the period from April 1 to June 30.
South Africa also issued permits worth 590 000 rands to Rwanda, which was fingered in a UN report in June for active involvement in the M23 rebel movement in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sales contracts to all countries totalled 2,8 billion rand.
According to South Africa’s Beeld newspaper, Justice minister and chairperson of the NCACC, Jeff Radebe, said in 2011 that the government would not approve permits for the sale of weapons to countries with “political complications”.
This included Gabon, Syria, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The fact that Zuma has spiritedly tried to force President Robert Mugabe to implement a raft of reforms in accordance with a political pact which brought power sharing, is likely to be forgotten by the two formations of the MDC who fear Zimbabwe could be plunged into violence by Zanu PF.
Zuma’s credibility could be thrown into doubt and risks losing the respect of the opposition and pro democracy groups here.
Zimbabwe is far from being stable and it is flabbergasting why his government would go against the sound judgment of senior officials who wanted an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.
Zuma has endless reports from civic groups and the two MDCs of Zanu PF violence and its reliance on the security forces to crush dissent.
We ask: could it be that Zuma is an angel during the day and the devil at night? How are we supposed to perceive this seemingly bad piece of trade with Zimbabwe at a time when Sadc and himself have been fighting to have reforms implemented?
There is no way this could have escaped Zuma.
In 2008, South Africans and civic groups in Zimbabwe successfully lobbied the maritime society to bar a ship carrying an assortment of deadly weapons destined for this land to be offloaded on African shores.
The Chinese ship carrying the arsenal which many suspected had been bought to shore up the military towards the presidential runoff, aborted its mission in Mozambique and South Africa.
Has Zuma forgotten the furore surrounding the arms shipment?