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Chinese Agri-Business and Mugabe's Lost Arms

Or is it the other way around? Either way, the UK's Times Online reports that the recent arms shipment forced back from unloading to Zimbabwe exposes Robert Mugabe’s link to the Chinese firm which manufactured and shipped the weapons.

Company documents show that Poly Technologies, the manufacturer of the weapons on board the ship, is ultimately controlled by a clique from China’s preeminent military clans with close ties to the Communist party leadership and army.

Major General He Ping, the company’s chairman, is the son-in-law of Deng Xiaoping, the former Chinese leader; its president, Wang Jun, is the son of a vice-president and a Deng ally. Its upper ranks are stuffed with military veterans and their offspring, who have greatly enriched themselves with arms sales to some of Africa’s bloodiest trouble spots.

Diplomatic sources say Mugabe forged links with the Poly Technologies management on state visits to China. Since Zimbabwe is all but bankrupt, the arms are paid for by barters of agricultural products and raw materials.

But there's another unasked question; one that struck me as the story first unfolded.

A Chinese spokeswoman tried to defuse concern by saying that the arms shipment was ordered before the post-election unrest in Zimbabwe began. That is almost certainly true - ships full of arms do not pop up off the coast unless their part of a maritime pre-positioning logistics operation.

However, China cannot claim ignorance to the affairs of Zimbabwe any more than Robert Mugabe can. And Mugabe knew he was in big trouble at the polls, feeling the pulse of the country and people he commands beneath his thumb.

Of course he ordered the arms before the election. In fact, he was almost certainly hoping the shipment would have been delivered just a couple of weeks before the An Yue Jiang finally found African shores.

In fact, if the German KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH wasn't owed so much money, Mugabe would have received his arms anyway.

But of course, unlike the Chinese Poly Technologies arms peddler, German banks prefer to do business in currency, not "barters of agricultural products and raw materials." Pesky Germans.

1 Comment

If Mugabe is indeed bartering agricultural products for arms, the implications are even worse. Not only have Zimbabwean food resources gone from being 'a breadbasket to a basket case' through complete mismanagement during the transfer of productive white run farms to smaller private allotments (and the figures are almost as staggering as the inflationary ones) - but the meagre remains being exchanged for arms(ie. not bananas to money to maiz for example) is reprehensible, or do they plan to use those arms to secure food for those who support those in power. As for raw materials, China is busy undercutting most developed countries worldwide in its pursuit of resources, signing various agreements of cooperation/exploitation rights, especialy in South America,Central Asia, and Africa, and extra especialy in countries/with regimes rejected by the west for political/human rights issues. There is some shame in the west loosing ground to them, we have the finances and capabilities available to us - if politics is business, then we should be able to help steer a better course for many countries there - maybe history has not forgiven us sufficiently for us to be able to do so, or maybe we have a certain ineptitude of understanding tribal politics ? On a completely different note, the Germans probably spotted the Chinese shipment trying to sneak into port at the crack of dawn while they were down on the beach early to reserve the best sunbeds for the day (old joke and no insult intended), certainly an efficient method , if so.