A victory for workers’ solidarity with the Zimbabwean people
South African trade unions, churchmen and lawyers combined to turn away a ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe at present has no legitimate elected government, since the results of an election held three weeks ago have been suppressed by former president Robert Mugabe and his junta of generals.
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.
Nicole Fritz, of the Southern African Litigation Centre, and Rubin Phillip, the Anglican Bishop of Natal, applied to the Durban High Court for an order to prevent the arms being landed or transported to Zimbabwe.
Fritz said the Durban High Court granted the order for the ship’s conveyance permit to be suspended and that there could be no movement of the containers in which the arms were packed and no movement of the ship.
But lawyers were told by the sheriff of the high court that when an attempt to serve the order on the ship was made it was found that it had put to sea.
There are reports that the ship may try to offload its cargo in Walvis Bay or an Angolan port, but Namibian unions have been reported as taking similar action to the South African ones.