Civil society groups in Namibia say they have collected over 110 thousand signatures on petitions calling for a moratorium on weapons transfers to Zimbabwe.
The petitions, containing signatures from around the world, demand that SADC, the Southern African Development Community, impose the moratorium. The drive began after the recent controversy over a Chinese ship loaded with weapons bound for Zimbabwe. The ship had been refused entry at a number or African ports, or dockworkers refused to unload its cargo. However, there are conflicting reports as to whether to weapons actually ever made it to Zimbabwe.
One of the groups taking part is the Namibian National Society for Human Rights. Phil ya Nangoloh is head of the group. From Windhoek, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua what’s behind the petitions.
“It’s very necessary because of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Basically it was kick-started when it was discovered…that a shipload of arms, that we would call a merchant of death, was destined for Zimbabwe at this time when political violence is at its peak…. But the main reason for the petition is to prevent any further transfer of arms to Zimbabwe, whether for military, paramilitary or security. And this should be done immediately,” he says.
The petitions are being presented to the Namibian parliament. Ya Nangoloh says that the Windhoek government has cordial relations with the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. “That’s rather worrying. While we appreciate the fact that this ship was refused entry to Namibia, we are very disturbed by the fact of the very cordial relationship… So you cannot really exclude that there could be some underhanded dealings between the two, which would lead to deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe,” he says.
But does SADC have the authority to impose a moratorium on weapons transfer? Ya Nangoloh says, “They have legal and moral authority to do that… They are bound by international and regional treaties. There are various protocols; in particular there is a SADC protocol on firearms, and there are others that really are preventing this sort of business to be conducted between Zimbabwe and any other states.”