Sokwanele reports a new and disturbing development in the “little” Zimbabwe story: it seems a group of about 10 Chinese soldiers and/or officers, armed with revolvers, checked into the Holiday Inn in Mutare, and are going about with Zimbabwean police for some reason. Meanwhile, a Chinese ship called the An Yue Jiang just cleared customs in Durban with a few containers said to contain arms consigned to the Zimbabwean army. The timing is pretty disturbing; if it’s a long-planned training exercise, with some new toys for Mugabe’s bully boys, it couldn’t come at a more dangerous time. Also, there are reports elsewhere on various Zim blogs and South African news sites that troops armed with water cannon and so forth are driving around in the suburbs and streets of Harare. The general strike the other day didn’t really come off as most people didn’t hear about it until they were already out and about for the day.
From several posts and comments at This is Zimbabwe » Blog Archive » Chinese soldiers seen in Mutare
A quick search this morning pulled this article up, published on zimbabwejournalists.com, which corroberates the truth of what he saw:
“Residents are going about their normal business despite a call by the opposition to stay at home. Businesses were operating as usual but there was a heavy police presence in the city centre and in all the high density suburbs,” he said.
The police are armed with AK rifles, teargas canisters and baton sticks. Water cannons were being driven throughout the suburbs. There were no incidents of violence as of mid-morning. However, says Baxter, there was a surprise presence of Chinese soldiers armed with revolvers in the city.
The Chinese, together with about 70 Zimbabwean senior army officers are staying at the Holiday Inn, in the city’s central business district.
There are about 10 Chinese soldiers. “We were shocked to see Chinese soldiers in their full military regalia and armed with pistols checking at the hotel,” said one worker.
“When they signed checking-in forms they did not indicate the nature of the business that they are doing and even their addresses.”
Still on the topic of China meddling in our affairs, we also received this information from another source who said that a ship had docked in Durban, South Africa on the 15 April: “container ship An Yue JIANG, Voyage 143, Vessel Agent COSREN”. Our emailer told us that he had been advised that the ship had a small number of containers – three, he was told – “which contained weaponry (small arms/RPG7 projectiles/mortars) destined for the Zimbabwe army”.
Apparently this news has already been reported on Radio 702 in South Africa, who said there were six containers of weaponry. I haven’t been able to find a link to that but in the process of looking did find this. I haven’t set up the required account to view details though. I think this is a picture of the ship, location unknown.
The bloggers at Sokwanele go on to caution calm and notes that there are Zimbabweans of Chinese descent who may suffer by association, if this story leads to a Chinese intervention of some sort. It’s my hope that the Chinese troops may be there for some sort protection of Chinese interests, but it feels a little too clandestine and under the radar for that. Especially with all that’s been going on with the Olympic torch relay and Darfur. The Chinese, as someone said recently, don’t respond well to criticism. But this is a very worrisome development.