British author wrong about Chinese weapons to Zimbabwe


British author Gordon Thomas who claims that Britain’s military intelligence agency, MI6, stopped the delivery of Chinese arms to Zimbabwe is wrong. The arms were in fact delivered by a company owned by a former British army officer, who according to the London Sunday Times is “a pillar of the community in the peaceful Wiltshire village where he lives”.

The arms which were reportedly packed into 3080 cases and included 1000 rocket-propelled grenades, 2000 mortar bombs and three million rounds of ammunition, arrived in Durban, South Africa, in April shortly after Zimbabwe’s controversial elections. They were on board a Chinese ship named the An Yue Jiang.

Dock workers refused to offload the ship which then sailed to Luanda. There, reports said, the ship was again prevented from off-loading its cargo.

News reports this week said Thomas had written in his book: Inside British Intelligence, that Britain, using its MI6 operatives and the Royal Navy’s nuclear Trident-class submarine, tracked the Chinese ship – nicknamed “Freighter of Death” – along the coast to ensure it did not offload the cargo, while London and Washington ratcheted up diplomatic pressure to prevent any country in the region from allowing the delivery of the arms to Mugabe.

The Insider, however, understands that the arms were delivered to Harare by Avient Cargo using its Ilyushin 76 aircraft whose registration number is Z-WTV, serial number 73410279.

Avient vehemently denied this last year when it was asked about the delivery and challenged The Insider to prove it.

Avient Managing Director, Andrew Smith, when given the above details responded: “I am able to categorically deny your statement that the aircraft registration Z-WTV, the IL76 carried or delivered the said shipment. If you would be so kind as to provide us with details of the dates, times and places you claim the delivery took place we will be able to state and prove where the aircraft was at that time. We are unable to comment on what happened to the shipment only that we were not involved in any manner.”

Former deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told Press TV in May 2008 that the arms were delivered.

The Insider has not been able to come up with the exact date but has ascertained that the weapons were carried from Luanda to the Manyame air base which is adjacent to Harare international airport. When Smith was told that the arms were delivered between April 18 and May 6, he responded: “Please can you give me some more detail dates so we can narrow this down to prove where the aircraft was at the supposed time- You should be ware that we have already proved this to other authorities- so we have nothing whatsoever to hide, however we look to you to back up your claim that we carried such equipment.”

A Mozambican publication said the arms were transported from Ponta Negra which is in the Namibe province of Angola to Harare. The publication said the South African government could have aided the delivery somehow because the Chinese ship did not have enough fuel to travel from Durban to Luanda. It says it must have been replenished by the South Africans, but the South African government denied this.

The publication also says Chinese authorities had duped the international community by announcing that the “Ship of Shame” had been recalled.

Trade unions, including the International Transport Federation all claimed victory for preventing the ship from off-loading.

Avient has been involved in dangerous assignments for governments including that of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Sunday Times reported in 2006 that there were calls that Smith must be investigated for war crimes because of his company’s involvement in the DRC. Avient’s offices are in Wiltshire, UK.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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