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Chiwenga Indonesia arms deal jolts UK

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Zim confirms Indonesia arms deal

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CABINET has confirmed Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s intent to purchase ammunition in Indonesia ahead of elections next year in a development that has sent shivers down the spines of many who fear the use of the military by the Zanu PF regime to settle political scores.

MOSES MATENGA

Chiwenga was recently in Indonesia for the 2022 Sector Ministers’ Meeting on Sanitation and Water for All where he visited an arms-manufacturing company to buy military hardware for Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, Cabinet adopted his report that included the intention to sell ammunition.

The visit and apparent plan to purchase the ammunition, particularly ahead of the 2023 elections, has sent the opposition, civilians, diplomats and the international community into panic especially after the 1 August 2018 shootings that saw the military shooting and killing unarmed civilians after the 31 July polls.

“In addition, PT LEN of Indonesia will explore investment opportunities in the renewable energy and rail signaling systems, while PT Pindad will explore partnerships with authorities in the defence industry,” acting Information minister Jenfan Muswere said on Tuesday in a post-cabinet briefing.

The involvement of the army is civilian processes has been the hallmark of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government that has in the past used the military to silence critics.

Chiwenga landed in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on 15 May on government business and soon after his arrival in the Asian country, state media news agency Antara exposed a secret part of his itinerary, which included visiting the state-owned weapon maker PT Pindad in Bandung to explore the possibility of an arms purchase.

PT Pindad is an Indonesian state-owned arms-manufacturing company specialising in military hardware. It was founded in 1808 as a military equipment workshop in Surabaya under the name of Artillerie Constructie Winkel. It expanded into a factory before moving to Bandung in 1923. The Dutch handed over the factory to the Indonesian government in 1950.

The company is now a major manufacturer of military equipment for internal use and export.

PT Pindad sells a host of lethal weapons, from sidearms to submachine guns, assault rifles, battle rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers and armoured vehicles.

In its stock it has a 40mm Silent Mortar, ME-105 105mm Howitzer, PK-1 field knife and a PL-1 throwing knife.

Zimbabwe usually buys its weapons from Eastern Europe and China while in the past the southern African country has purchased weapons from the west, Brazil and African countries such as South Africa, Namibia and Egypt.

Before the European arms embargo, it bought arms from Britain and other European countries.

Last month, the United Kingdom expressed concern over reports that Chiwenga was shopping for weapons in Indonesia amid growing fears of a plan to perpetuate  human rights abuses by state security agents against civilians in Zimbabwe.

In a question to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Labour member of Parliament for West Ham, who is the current shadow minister for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Lyn Brownasked about the potential impact of Zimbabwe’s purchase of arms to Indonesia on the country’s human rights situation.

The United Kingdom views Zimbabwe as a politically volatile environment, with the state security agents previously involved in shooting and killing unarmed civilians during protests in August 2018 and January 2019.

The government has failed to institute investigations to hold to account those responsible for the killings.

In 2008, a shipment of weapons bound for Zimbabwe from China was intercepted in South Africa with the Asian country authorities later saying the arms would be recalled after South African port workers refused to unload it.

There were calls then from Britain to prevent arms flowing into the troubled country following the disputed March elections that led to a bloody runoff campaign fronted by the military and saw dozens dead.

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