21 April 2008

Zimbabwe: Unions Mobilize to Stop Weapons

Cape Town — The governments of both Mozambique and Tanzania have refused to allow a  Chinese ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe to offload its cargo in their ports, a South African newspaper reported on Monday.

As news agencies reported that the vessel, An Yue Jiang, was headed up the south-west coast of Africa towards Angola, South African union activists scrambled to stop the arms from being delivered to President Robert Mugabe's government.

The report on Mozambique and Tanzania's action was carried by the Johannesburg newspaper, Beeld. The newspaper also reported that sources in the South African Navy said the progress of the ship was being tracked. However, they suggested it would stay out of South African waters for fear of being intercepted.

The An Yue Jiang left its anchorage outside the South African port of Durban on Friday after a court granted church activists a temporary order preventing the weapons from being shipped to Zimbabwe overland through South Africa. Beeld reported last week that the ship's cargo included three million rounds of small arms ammunition, 3,500 mortars and mortar tubes and 1,500 rocket propelled grenades.

Sprite Zungu, a representative of the International Transport Workers' Federation, told Agence France-Presse in Durban on Monday that the body  was attempting to prevent dockers elsewhere in the continent from unloading the cargo.

"I am still seeking tangible information on the destination of the ship," Zungu told AFP. "As soon as I get the exact information... I will travel to the country and ensure I mobilize workers not to offload it... Our objective is to mobilize and organize unions in Africa to take a firm stand and try to stop the ship from offloading these dangerous weapons which could be used to kill Zimbabweans."

An affiliate of the federation, the South African Transport Workers' Union, last week said its members would refuse to unload the weapons if the ship docked in Durban.

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