A huge arms shipment has arrived in Zimbabwe, courtesy of Beijing. Good news for one of the factions jostling to succeed Mugabe, but bad news for anyone who hoped Zimbabwe could peacefully negotiate the exceedingly difficult challenges facing it in the coming months. By SIMON ALLISON.
The Zimbabwean Defence Force has just taken delivery of 20,000 AK-47s, reports the Southern Africa Report. The arms were delivered from China via a circuitous route, avoiding countries such as Mozambique and South Africa where unions (not governments) have prevented arms shipments from reaching Zimbabwe before. But where and on who is the ZDF planning to use all these shiny new weapons?
The answer, it seems, is in the details. Along with the rifles came 21,000 pairs of handcuffs – not a traditional military accessory. But very useful when it comes to crowd control and making arrests (or illegal detentions).
The deal was reportedly arranged by defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. This too is important. Mnangagwa is leader of one of the major factions jockeying for power in the post-Mugabe era. His is the hardline faction thought to include the top generals and security chiefs, and considered by some to be effectively running the country already.
It’s a bad time for Zimbabwe to be flooded with new weapons (is there a good time?) in light of the country’s extremely uncertain political future. There are worries over Mugabe’s health and who might succeed him, concerns over next year’s constitutional referendum and fears for citizens’ safety during the presidential election, also scheduled for next year some time. It was during the last presidential election in 2008 that forces connected with Zanu-PF used widespread violence and intimidation on opposition supporters, eventually forcing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from the run-off election. An influx of new weapons makes it even tougher to avoid a repeat of this violence. DM
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