SA Helicopter donation to Zim blockef

A court in South Africa has temporarily halted a
delivery of helicopters to the Zimbabwean military,
human rights group AfriForum says.
The group made the urgent request when it heard about the
donation of South Africa’s retired Alouette fleet.
It said it would be irresponsible to give equipment to a
force that was not neutral ahead of this year’s elections.
South Africa’s defence ministry said the aircraft would not
be assembled and would be used only for spare parts.
Elections in Zimbabwe in 2008 were marred by violence and
allegations of vote-rigging.
Following regional negotiations led by South Africa,
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party entered into a
fractious coalition with the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC).
A recent report by US-based Human Rights Watch said that
four years on, the security forces were still politically
partisan, remaining loyal to Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
Zimbabwe is also subject to a European Union arms
embargo.
‘Record of abuses’
AfriForum said High Court judge N B Tuchten had forbidden
South Africa’s government from exporting any Alouette
helicopters or spares for such helicopters to Zimbabwe
until a full hearing could be held on 19 February.
Willie Spies, a lawyer for the South African lobby group, told
the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that he was
confident the court order would then be upheld.
"We know that Zimbabwe has got a record of human rights
abuses," Mr Spies said.
"We know what happened during 2008 with the second
round presidential elections. We know the Zimbabwe
Defence Forces are not a neutral defence force committed
to defending the Zimbabwean state," he added.
"It’s an aggressive force that’s been used against the people
of Zimbabwe to suppress the opposition."
With such knowledge, it did not make sense to sit by and
allow South Africa’s to donate the helicopters, Mr Spies
said.
‘Phased out’
Earlier on Friday, South Africa’s Mail and Guardian
newspaper reported that it had seen confidential minutes
of a meeting held two months ago between the defence
chiefs of South Africa and Zimbabwe detailing the "disposal
of Alouette III helicopters and spares".
South Africa’s defence department told the paper the
donation was part of an agreement that dated back to
1997.
"We are sending spare parts of the helicopter that has been
phased out and the frames," defence department
spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini told the AFP news agency.
"These things are not assembled – they are spare parts and
frames. There is nothing like a fully-fledged helicopter."
According to AfriForum, the French-manufactured
helicopters were used by South Africa’s apartheid
government during Angola’s civil war in the 1970s and 1980s
to carry out air-to-ground attacks in support of the rebels.
Last week, Zimbabwe’s rival political leaders reached a deal
over a new constitution, removing a key obstacle to holding
elections.

Source: m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21204860

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