The mystery of Mugabe’s Chinese weapons

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images What ever happened to that Chinese ship bringing weapons to Zimbabwe? It depends who you ask. It looked like China might give up its attempt to ship 77 tons of arms to Robert Mugabe’s embattled regime after dockworkers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload the so-called “ship of shame.” Since then ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
594939_080521_arms_807792822.jpg
594939_080521_arms_807792822.jpg

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

What ever happened to that Chinese ship bringing weapons to Zimbabwe? It depends who you ask.

It looked like China might give up its attempt to ship 77 tons of arms to Robert Mugabe's embattled regime after dockworkers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload the so-called "ship of shame." Since then the ship's location has been a mystery.

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

What ever happened to that Chinese ship bringing weapons to Zimbabwe? It depends who you ask.

It looked like China might give up its attempt to ship 77 tons of arms to Robert Mugabe’s embattled regime after dockworkers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload the so-called “ship of shame.” Since then the ship’s location has been a mystery.

Zimbabwe’s government now claims they got the shipment which includes “three million AK-47 bullets, more than 3000 mortar shells and launchers and some 1500 rocket-propelled grenades.” An article in Scotland’s Sunday Herald, based on South African and Mozambican newspaper reports, claims that the ship was secretly refueled offshore by the South African navy. It then circled the Cape of Good Hope and docked in Congo-Brazzaville where the guns were shipped by plane to Harare.

But a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman described the reports as “baseless and purely fictitious” and claims that the ship is headed back to China with all of its cargo. Some speculate that the Congo-Brazzaville story may just have been propaganda cooked up to give Mugabe the appearance of having international influence.

Given that none of the parties in this story quite exude credibility, this one may just remain a mystery.

(Hat tip: China Digital Times)

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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