SOUTH Africa’s parliamentary committee on arms control has said there is nothing wrong with government donating helicopter airframes and spare parts to the Airforce of Zimbabwe.
Report by Dumisani Sibanda
Those opposed to the donation fear the equipment could be used to suppress political rivals of President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party ahead of the harmonised polls.
Zimbabwean security forces have in recent years been accused of being partisan in support of Mugabe and Zanu PF.
According to South Africa’s online media reports, that country’s Justice minister Jeff Radebe, as chairman of the arms control committee, said the proposed donation of the Alouette III helicopter frames and spare parts — which the South African Defence Forces says is part of an agreement made in 1997 — does not fall into the category
of “controlled items” with a military application.
The minister was responding to Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier, who early this year wrote to him asking “for the arms control committee to investigate the proposed donation”.
In his response this week, Radebe said his committee was only mandated to consider applications relating to “controlled items”.
“The items to be donated are unserviceable, have no hard points or weapons mounted to it and the spare parts and components have no features and characteristics that would transfer it from a civil aircraft to a military aircraft,” Radebe wrote.
But Maynier said he was not satisfied with the response and would write to Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to stop the donation.
“In the end . . . the end user for the helicopter airframes and spare parts is the Zimbabwe Defence Forces,” Maynier is reported to have said.
He said his party was also keen to find out if the French manufacturers of the aircraft had been consulted, as is required by the Armscor Act, before the decision
to donate the equipment to Zimbabwe was made.
South Africa’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee Act stipulates that arms transfers should not take place to
unstable countries or contribute to repression.
A South African human rights body Afri-Forum has taken the matter to the courts to block the donation to the Zimbabwean military — which it says is “not neutral” and alleges supports Mugabe and his party Zanu PF.