By Patrick Craven, COSATU
April 22, 2008 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman that the China Ocean Shipping Company which owns the An Yue Jiang, has decided to recall the ship because Zimbabwe cannot take delivery of the 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition onboard.
If true, this is an historic victory for the international trade union movement and civil society, and in particular for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), whose members refused to unload or transport its deadly cargo.
Protest banner being removed from China's Pretoria embassy.
Today's meeting between the COSATU general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi and the secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti, confirmed beyond all doubt that the people of Zimbabwe are now facing a massive crisis -- a brutal onslaught from a regime that is determined to cling to power by stealing the elections and imposing its will through violence.
[For more background, go to http://links.org.au/node/352 and check the comments at the end of the article.]
In COSATU's view the ``government'' of Robert Mugabe is now illegal and illegitimate. Its term of office expired at the end of March when the people voted. Its has refused to release the results of the presidential
election and has illegally organised a recount of votes in 23 constituencies in which the ruling ZANU-PF lost narrowly to the MDC, long after the time limit of 48 hours had expired. It has even been ``recounting'' the presidential votes in those constituencies before they had been announced.
Combined with this blatant vote-rigging, the ruling party has unleashed a systematic campaign of violence against MDC members and supporters, which has already claimed at least ten lives. Thousands have been
displaced from their homes, five hundred injured and hospitalised and these numbers are increasing by the day.
Meanwhile the ``government'' is continuing to rule illegally, with the former ministers restored to their posts,even those who lost their seats in the parliamentary elections. COSATU demands that the governments of Africa refuse to recognise this despot who is desperately hanging on to power, and to stop inviting him to meetings of the Southern African Development Community or the African Union.
COSATU salutes the stand taken by its transport affiliate SATAWU and other unions around the continent, and now calls upon all its affiliates and Southern African trade union partners, to identify, and refuse to handle, any goods destined for Zimbabwe which could be used to assist the illegal government or be used to oppress the people.
The federation will be holding a meeting with civil society, church and NGO groups on Thursday, 24 April, at which plans will be finalised for a huge protest march in South Africa, in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, and to demand the removal of the Mugabe dictatorship and the installation of a government elected by a majority on 29 March 2008.
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
P.O. Box 1019
Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/ 086 603 9667
[Patrick Craven is COSATU's national spokesperson. Visit http://www.cosatu.org.za]
China arms ship update and position. ITF: 'return to China only option'
22 April 2008
Update as of 16:00, 23 April 2008
No assurance has been received from Cosco that the ship will abort its mission and return to China, but we continue to seek to persuade them of the wisdom of this course of action. Meanwhile union preparations continue to block attempts to unload and transport the cargo and any attempt to do so will be met by the strongest possible trade union response. The ship is still off the South African coastline in international waters making around 11 knots on a course that will take it to Lobito around midday on Friday.
Report from 22 April 2008
The ITF, which has mobilised workers across Southern Africa to oppose any transfer of the An Yue Jiang's load of arms, today stated that a return of the ship to China is the only realistic option for the Chinese government to take. The ITF said it believes the vessel is currently off the coast of South Africa en route to the ports of Luanda or Lobito in Angola, traveling at reduced speed to conserve fuel, and likely to arrive later this week (see below for more details of the ship and its position).
According to the London-based global union federation It does not rule out the possibility that the ship could still receive a change of orders to put into a Namibian port to refuel or even attempt transshipment of the goods at sea, and continues to lobby the South African, Angolan and Namibian governments to follow the lead of their own workers and unions and declare that any assistance will be limited to that necessary to return the 28 crew members to their homes - and the cargo of ammunition to its point of origin, thousands of miles from Zimbabwe.
ITF General Secretary David Cockroft commented: "There's only one place for this cargo to be now, and that's China. Its shipment of death has no place in the hands of Zimbabwe's teetering and thuggish government."
He added: "Once again we call on the Chinese authorities to recognise that it's time to bring this ship and its crew home. The ITF are meeting with its owners tomorrow and we hope to receive their promise that they will do the sensible thing - send it to the nearest port to refuel and take on supplies, then get it back to China. "
"Until those assurances are received and we see those arms being removed from Mugabe's grasp, we will continue to organise opposition and to shame those who failed to act, and instead left it to trade unionists, to the Southern African Litigation Centre and to the Southern African Bishops' Conference to do what common decency demanded."
Current position of the An Yue Jiang
The indications are that the ship is making 11 knots coming around the Cape. Extrapolating from this, we believe she would have been just south of Cape Town in the early hours of this morning, and is going to be approximately off the Orange River in South Africa tracking for Lobito in the early hours of tomorrow, probably staying just outside South African territorial waters. We would estimate that she will make Lobito around noon on the 26th April.
Background information on the An Yue Jiang
The vessel is a general cargo ship built in 1986 and sails under the Chinese flag (PRC), with a crew of 28 Chinese seafarers. It has a Gross Tonnage of 11,115 tons, is 149.7m long, and is owned by the China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) and managed by COSCO Guangzhou.
COSCO is a vast company founded in 1961 and has its headquarters in Beijing. It owns some 667 vessels, 147 of them newbuildings. The COSCO website states that it is worth US$17bn and has some 80,000 employees. It specialises in shipping and logistics.
The ITF is a global federation of 654 unions from 148 countries representing 4,418,455 workers worldwide.
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson.
Direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260.
International Transport Workers' Federation - ITF:
ITF House, 49 - 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871
Posted Sat Apr 26, 2008 5:12am AEST
Angola has given authorisation for a Chinese ship loaded with arms destined for Zimbabwe to dock, but it will not be allowed to unload the weapons, state news agency Angop reported overnight.
The ship, the An Yue Jiang, has been authorised to dock in the capital Luanda but can only unload "merchandise destined for Angola," Angop said, citing a government statement.
"The weaponry that the ship brings destined for Zimbabwe is not authorised to be unloaded on national territory," the statement said.
It was not immediately clear if the ship had already docked in Luanda.
The ship, which is owned by Chinese state shipping company Cosco, is loaded with several containers of assault rifle ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds ordered by Zimbabwe.
Following a protest by dock workers, a South African court last week banned the arms from being transported through South African territory and there has been an international outcry over the shipment.
Human rights groups fear the arms could be used as part of a government crackdown on opposition supporters in Zimbabwe following disputed parliamentary and presidential elections on March 29.
China appeared to heed international pressure this week, saying the ship was being turned back, even though it has defended its right to sell arms to Zimbabwe as part of its international trade.
"To my knowledge, the Chinese company has decided to bring back the boat," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
In an interview with state television aired overnight, Zimbabwean Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi defended the shipment saying it was part of regular arms purchases from China.
"We received a lot of arms and equipment from China during the time of the liberation struggle. The cooperation has continued and we continue to buy and receive arms from China."
The European Union and the United States have banned arms sales to Zimbabwe as part of a package of sanctions that includes a travel ban and asset freeze on top officials including President Robert Mugabe.
Political Bureau Press Statement
27 April 2008
The Political Bureau of the South African Communist Party met on the
25th April 2008 in the midst of a deepening crisis in Zimbabwe and
with serious challenges confronting the working class and poor of
The SACP condemns in the strongest terms the state-sponsored violence
and harassment directed against opposition supporters and communities
in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are being punished for rejecting at the polls
President Mugabe and the ruling clique in ZANU PF.
But the governments of SADC, including our own government, must also
assume some measure of responsibility for the latest crisis. President
Mbeki, in particular, stubbornly refused to learn anything from the
previous electoral events in Zimbabwe. This time around, once more,
SADC allowed Mugabe to run circles around it. Mugabe unilaterally
declared an election date before the mediation process was anywhere
near complete and in defiance of the SADC Protocols on elections.
Notwithstanding this, in the run-up to the most recent electoral event
we were being assured that everything was in place for free and fair
elections and there were just a few "procedural" matters outstanding.
This denialist complacency once more raised false hopes and once more
exposed millions of ordinary Zimbabweans to the wrath of Mugabe's
But, of course, the main culpability rests with Mugabe and the ZANU PF
leading clique. Now is the time for the maximum isolation of this
regime. The SACP salutes the role played by our alliance partner
COSATU, and specifically its affiliate SATAWU, in refusing to off-load
and transport the Chinese arms shipment. We call for the consolidation
of Southern African Zimbabwe solidarity networks that have
increasingly emerged in the recent weeks. We call on the South African
government to suspend visa waivers for Zimbabwean police and defence
force personnel. The easy access that they enjoy to South Africa (in
contrast to the majority of Zimbabweans) is shielding them from the
worst of the all-round socio-economic crisis in their country. We say
the Mugabe government must step down. Notwithstanding the flawed
nature of the elections, it is clear they lost. We say that either
SADC must urgently demonstrate in the following days its capacity to
deal decisively with the dangerous impasse, or international
intervention must be broadened to include the AU and UN.
Issued by the SACP
Contact: Malesela Maleka, SACP Spokesperson – 082 226 1802
Satawu press statements re Chinese vessel and Nationwide
SATAWU MEDIA RELEASE ON THE CHINESE VESSEL STILL IN AFRICAN WATERS
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) can confirm that the Au Yue Jiang is still on African shores attempting to off load the controversial lethal weapons destined for Zimbabwe. The latest reports through our global trade union federation, the International Transport workers Federation (ITF) confirm that she docked in the Port of Labito in Angola and off loaded building materials only. The report further confirms that the lethal weapons were not handled by Angolan dockers and therefore not off loaded. The vessel is now on its way to Congo Brazzaville where we believe a further attempt will be made to off load the weapons. The Durban based ITF inspectorate working with Satawu has been monitoring its movements and will leave for Congo Brazzaville on an urgent basis to ensure that the weapons are not off loaded there.
Satawu condemns both the Chinese government and the Chinese ship owners, COSCO for creating a false impression globally that they had recalled the vessel. This so called recall was clearly only intended to deceive and remove the massive groundswell of political pressure that had built up in a very short period of time. Both the Chinese government and COSCO have regrettably demonstrated that "profiteering" remains the over riding consideration over human solidarity and "saving lives". It appears a judgement call has been made by them to wait around until the Zimbabwean electoral crises is over, it will be a long wait in the context of avoiding a return trip and wasted expenditure.
Satawu, Cosatu, ITF and ITUC have already been vindicated with regard to the moral stance it had taken given what is taking place in Zimbabwe now in the build up to the presidential run off.
We again strongly call on all African governments and dock workers to refuse the vessel docking access and to refuse handling the weapons with a view to ensure that the vessel leaves African shores immediately.
We call on the United Nations to bring pressure to bear on the Chinese government to practically demonstrate their commitment to recall and stop using the politics of deception.
"Satawu's interest lies only with the six containers of lethal weapons on board being boycotted and returned to Beijing until the political crises in Zimbabwe is resolved in the context of the possibility of genuine democracy reinstated based on the will of the people there. To this extent local, African and global media must ensure that this important humane story remains in the public discourse until the vessel returns with the weapons on board as the struggle did not end in Durban on 18 April 2008 ", said Randall Howard Satawu General Secretary.
Released by Satawu on 8 May 2008. Please contact the general secretary @ 0825646298 for further comments.
Civil society mobilisation on Zimbabwe and Food Prices
17 May 2008
COSATU and others have organised marches, to be held on Saturday 17
May in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, on two of the most burning
issues of the day, Zimbabwe and rising food prices.
The people of Zimbabwe are facing a massive challenge. Despite high
levels of intimidation, media bias, out of-date voters' rolls and
banning of party rallies, on 29 March they voted for change and
rejected the rule of ZANU-PF. It was a triumph for democracy. The
opposition MDC won the majority of seats in Parliament and are
convinced that they also won the presidential vote.
The result announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission however gave
no candidate a 50%+ vote and now, in the face of even worse violence,
the people face a run-off election between the front-runner Morgan
Tsangvirai and incumbent Robert Mugabe.
If this run-off election is to truly express the will of the people it
will be essential to have a bigger and more effective team of local
and international observers. We shall be urging the South African and
other SADC governments to do everything in their power to ensure that
the election is not stolen thorough violence, intimidation or
More then ever the people of Zimbabwe need international support from
democratic forces in Africa and the World. Please join our marches and
show your support for their right to elect a government of their
choice. The will of the majority must be sovereign!
The rocketing price of food and other essential goods is devastating
us. The majority of South Africans are considerably worse off than a
year ago and the poorest face hunger and malnutrition.
A new report by reveals that in March alone CPIX inflation rose by
1.6%, with the annual rate increasing to 10.1%. The main reason for
this increase was the cost of food, transport and school fees. A
breakdown of CPIX by income group shows that for very low income
earners inflation is now up at 13.5%! The main reason is that food,
which has been rising fastest, accounts for 51% of their expenditure.
During March, food prices (within CPIX) rose by a massive 1.4% a
month, including increases in milk products and grain products at
around 3% a month.
The situation is even worse as a result of criminal price-fixing,
which has already been proved in the bread and dairy sectors. Greedy
companies, under cover of the global price rises, are getting together
to put up their prices even higher, so they can make even bigger
profits at the expense of their consumers. This theft of the poor by
the rich must be ruthlessly stamped out.
Urgent steps must be taken to cushion the poorest families by raising
social grants and minimum wages of workers covered by sectoral
determinations. All basic foods must be VAT zero-rated. Land reform
must be speeded up to make more land available for food production.
The world trade system must be reformed to end the rampant
profiteering by the big, subsidised farmers and food companies of the
rich Northern countries at the expense of the farmers, workers and
consumers of the rest of the world.
Join the marches on 17 May and let your voices be heard.
Sapa Published:May 17, 2008
South Africa’s working class was turning its anger against immigrants instead of the "true enemy", the capitalists, socialist organisations said at a march held by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Johannesburg today.
The organisations agreed that foreigners and South Africans should unite against the problems of underdevelopment.
About 200 people had joined Cosatu and other left winged organisations at the Library Gardens in the Johannesburg CBD to protest against recent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng, the situation in Zimbabwe and soaring food prices.
While holding Cosatu banners saying "Africans United" protesters sang struggle songs and listened to speeches.
SA National Civics Organisation (Sanco) president Mlungisi Hlongwane said: "The issue of Xenophobia should end and it should end now."
He called for "man-made boundaries" of countries to be "demolished" to ensure all Africans free movement through the countries.
"Let us unite," he said.
"African people should understand that we are all brothers and sisters."
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) handed out pamphlets saying a divided working class would win nothing more than exploitation and oppression.
Referring to the "crisis" of housing in South Africa, ZACF said: "A battle between South Africans and immigrants over who gets the houses will only prolong the crisis."
The organisation Keep Left blamed the government for underdevelopment saying it had been slow to meet its promises.
"If government had kept their promises to deliver houses and jobs, then no one would be fighting over this."
Keep Left said government should have set an example "long ago" about treating immigrants as "brothers and sisters".
"They were not loud enough condemning police attacks on immigrants in the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church (JCMC)."
The organisations Spartacist, a section of the international communist league, expressed a different opinion on South Africa’s underdevelopment issues.
While most organisations present supported Cosatu, Spartacist characterised the union federation as "pro-capitalist misleaders" and the ANC as "bourgouise".
"It is the ANC, SACP, Cosatu Tripartite Alliance government that overseas neo-apartheid capitalism under which the overwhelming majority are locked in grinding poverty and black people remain at the bottom," it said in a pamphlet.
Spartacist said ANC president Jacob Zuma had cloaked the crack down on immigrants with "empty words of sympathy", while police were regularly showing xenophobia themselves, encouraging mob attacks such as those in Alexandra this past week.
ZACF also said police were "no friends of immigrants", referring to the Central Methodist Church crackdown in the beginning of this year.
"[The police] is the force of repression that randomly takes people of the streets... checking for ID [identity] books and papers as they checked passes under the old regime."
The marchers left the Library Gardens heading for the Checkers Supermarket around noon to hand over a memorandum expressing concern about high food prices.
From there they were expected to march to the Home Affairs office to hand over another memorandum supporting freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe.
Cosatu calls for food nationalisation
Cape Town, South Africa
17 May 2008 02:20
About a hundred members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and other organisations picketed the gates of Parliament in Cape Town on Saturday morning to protest against rising food prices and call for freedom in Zimbabwe.
The event was to have been a march through the city, starting at Keizersgracht at 10am.
However, shortly after 11am, Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich announced to the scattering of people gathered there that they would drive to Parliament and picket instead.
"We expected a bigger turnout given the centrality of the issues," he said.
Cosatu had commitments from the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, the Treatment Action Campaign and other organisations that were represented at the picket.
"But clearly we haven't been able to bring the masses of the people along with us," he said.
Announcing the march earlier this week, Cosatu had said it would be a significant event "because it will be the first time in years that the alliance has marched together on the same issues and signifies the kind of unity and common purpose that has emerged from our people after Polokwane".
In a memorandum distributed at the picket, Cosatu and the SACP said they were demanding an end to "super profits" and massive salaries for executives, an immediate reduction in basic food prices and a freeze on future increases.
"We want that a state-owned enterprise -- or more of those, operating across the value chain of staple food products such as maize meal, bread, milk, some vegetables et cetera -- be set up within the next two years," the memorandum said.
The memo repeated Cosatu's demands for nationalisation of the mealie-meal, bread and milk value chains.
A memorandum on Zimbabwe called on the Southern African Development Community to deepen its diplomatic efforts to prevent a deterioration of the situation in that country. The African Union should also intervene immediately, and send a high-level delegation to Zimbabwe to halt the current escalation of violence.
"Progressive forces" worldwide should initiate discussions on an arms embargo, the memorandum said.
Also on Saturday, a Cosatu-organised march was held in central Johannesburg to protest against the past week's xenophobic attacks in Gauteng townships, as well as high food prices and the crisis in Zimbabwe. -- Sapa
Make the temporary victory more permanent
Desmond Tutu 21 May 2008 06:00
In the current scandal of the attempt to ship tons of arms and ammunition to Zimbabwe it is the Chinese who have spoken the most sense. China's foreign ministry said the country's shipment of mortar grenades, rockets and bullets was "perfectly normal trade".
It certainly is. Shipping arms to African governments who could use them to abuse their own people is an abhorrent but almost daily occurrence. And at present there is nothing the international community can do about it because there are no effective global controls.
If you want to export weapons to a country that commits gross human rights abuses, you can. You might have to use a few tricks to get around the flimsy patchwork of controls that exist, but it is easy and it is done all the time.
The case of the An Yue Jiang and its cargo is different because it happened at a politically fraught time, for both Zimbabwe and China, and because the world heard about it.
Originally only the vigilance of the South African transport workers' union stopped the shipment being unloaded in Durban. This is a systematic failure, but entirely predictable because of the lack of transparency in shipping arms. The dockworkers alerted the world to the danger the An Yue Jiang and its contents posed. Then there was the sight of the international community scrabbling around trying to prevent the ship from docking and the weapons reaching Zimbabwe.
The United States in particular worked hard to stop the shipment, but it had to resort only to diplomatic pressure. Despite a record of human rights abuses, Zimbabwe is not currently under a United Nations (UN) arms embargo. This would be a welcome first step. But there are ways round embargos.
At the moment the UN is working on an Arms Trade Treaty that could stop weapons transfers. If a strong treaty eventually becomes law then an arms exporter will have to block the sale if there is evidence the weapons are likely to be used to commit serious violations of human rights law. If they went ahead with the sale, then civil society in the exporting country or other countries would be able to challenge this decision -- as they certainly would have done in this case.
Under an effective Arms Trade Treaty human rights would not be the only criteria used to assess a weapons sale. The effect on development would also be included. According to research, armed conflict costs Africa $18-billion a year in lost economic opportunities. On average a war, civil war or insurgency shrinks an African economy by 15%. More than 95% of Kalashnikov rifles come from outside the continent. So do the bullets, mortars and other ammunition upon which warring armies depend. A strong treaty should include ammunition as well as the weapons themselves.
Of course legitimate uses such as defence or policing would not be affected by an Arms Trade Treaty. Governments who treat their people well have nothing to fear and neither will legitimate arms producers. There is support from many arms manufacturers for a treaty: they want their business recognised as legitimate and the crooks banned from operating.
In December 2006 more than 150 countries voted at the UN to work towards a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty. This May the process continues as a group of experts meets to advance it.
Now that it looks like the ship and its contents are returning to China and civil society, trade unions, human rights groups and others can proclaim a momentary victory. But if the UNs' meetings do not come out in support of a tough treaty, this victory will be at best temporary, at worst meaningless.
Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a former Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist
Zim denies taking delivery of Chinese arms
22 May 2008 03:05
The Zimbabwe government on Thursday denied taking delivery of a consignment of weapons from China after a ship carrying the arms was prevented from unloading its cargo.
"The shipment did not dock and there has not been delivery as yet," Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi told journalists in Harare.
"The shipment is part of a routine equipment for our defence. Zimbabwe has always procured equipment from the People's Republic of China," Sekeramayi said.
A South African newspaper reported over the weekend that the weapons had reached their destination, although the report was unclear over whether the arms had been offloaded in Angola or the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The ship identified as the An Yue Jiang, which belongs to Cosco, a
Chinese state-owned shipping firm, was forced to abandon plans to offload the arms in Durban last month after workers refused to carry out the work.
Sekeramayi described the controversy which surrounded the ship's failure to dock as a "hullabaloo".
There were fears that the arms could be used to crack down on opposition supporters following parliamentary and presidential elections in Zimbabwe in March, both of which the Movement for Democratic Change won.
The An Yue Jiang was carrying three million rounds of assault rifle ammunition, 3 000 mortar rounds and 1 500 rocket-propelled grenades, according to an inventory. - Sapa-AFP
INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION (ITUC)
> ITUC Online
> Zimbabwe: Union Leaders´ Trial Set for 23 June;Global Action
> Called for 25 May
> Brussels, 22 May 2008 (ITUC Online):The trial of Zimbabwe Congress
> of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Lovemore Matombo and Secretary-
> General Wellington Chibebe was today scheduled for 23 June by the
> country´s High Court, after the union leaders provided proof that
> they were scheduled to attend the ILO´s International Labour
> Conference which runs from 28 May to 13 June in Geneva. The two
> remain barred from addressing any political gathering. The charges,
> or "communicating falsehoods" and "inciting the public to rise
> against the government" stem from public May Day addresses given
> by them at the Dzivaresekwa Stadium.
> The ITUC has also expressed its support for a campaign to end
> violence in Zimbabwe and show solidarity with its people. The
> campaign will be launched at a series of national events in Africa
> and elsewhere on Africa Day, 25 May, when people are being asked
> to "Stand Up For Zimbabwe" (see and ).
> The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and
> territories and has 311 national affiliates. http://www.ituc-csi.org
> For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on:
> +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.