Chinese arms shipment turns back

This is what passes for good news in Zimbabwe these days:

Earlier on Thursday, a Chinese ship carrying armaments made by a Chinese state-owned company and bound for Zimbabwe headed back to China without unloading its cargo of bullets and mortar bombs, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry confirmed at a briefing Thursday.

“The Chinese company has already decided to send the military goods back to China in the same vessel, the An Yue Jiang,” the spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said. . .

China’s decision to turn the ship around was welcomed by the dock workers, trade unionists, religious leaders, Western diplomats and human rights workers who have been campaigning since last week to block delivery of the weapons to Zimbabwe.

They had said the weaponry could be used to carry out an even more violent crackdown on Zimbabwe’s political opposition, which is allied with the country’s unionized workers.

“This is a great victory for the trade union movement in particular and civil society in general in putting its foot down and saying we will not allow weapons that could be used to kill and maim our fellow workers and Zimbabweans to be transported across South Africa,” said Patrick Craven, spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which represents 1.9 million South African workers. China’s strategic retreat in delivering the weapons also allows it to avoid Zimbabwe-related protests over its human rights record before it hosts the Olympic Games this summer.

Also, the State Department has decided to acknowledge what everyone knows:

Turning up the pressure on President Robert Mugabe, the top United States envoy to Africa declared Zimbabwe’s opposition leader the “clear victor” in the nation’s disputed presidential election. . .

“This is a government rejecting the will of the people,” she said, referring to the government’s refusal to announce who won the presidential election last month, despite independent projections that placed the opposition ahead. “If they had voted for Mugabe the results would already have been announced. Everyone knows what time it is.”

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