Arms may be headed to Zimbabwe

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Lisa Napoli: As the world waits for Zimbabwe to announce the results of its presidential elections from a few weeks ago. Today, a new addition to the drama. South African officials confirm a Chinese ship carrying arms has been cleared through South African customs. Gretchen Wilson reports The containers allegedly contain mortars and rocket-propelled grenades destined for Zimbabwe’s army.

Gretchen Wilson: The shipment is sparking fears that violence will explode in Zimbabwe if the political stalemate remains unresolved. Observers say that since the elections, the country is increasingly run by the military, the police and paramilitary groups. Dale McKinley is a political analyst in Johannesburg.

Dale McKinley: The army and the militia are mobilizing. And this is a new phase, as far as I’m concerned, of a militarization of Zimbabwean society. And that does not bode well, either for the political opposition or, obviously, for the ordinary citizenship.

That militarization depends on the trade of arms. In recent months, Western countries have tried to put pressure on China to stop delivering arms to African countries, particularly Zimbabwe. But Beijing’s relations with the Mugabe regime go way back. Zimbabwe supplies China with tobacco and minerals. And China provides attractive loans, farm supplies and military support.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2008

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