By Alex Bell
25 February 2013
South Africa’s government has been warned that it risks being complicit in potential violence during Zimbabwe’s next elections, if it donates military equipment there.
A donation of a fleet of helicopters and spare parts has been put on hold on this basis, with a South Africa civil rights group warning that incidents of violence and intimidation are on the rise across the border.
The group, AfriForum, last month applied for an urgent interdict to stop the donation planned by the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) to the Zimbabwe Defence Force. That interim interdict was granted last month to allow time for the main application to be finalised.
The interim order was then confirmed last Friday, and will stand until the finalised application is heard in the High Court on March 27th. South Africa’s defence minister meanwhile has until February 28th to deliver to the court a full record of how it came to its decision to donate the helicopters.
The entire fleet of French built Alouette III helicopters and spare parts was set aside as a ‘donation’ by the SANDF. But AfriForum is seeking to stop this happening, arguing that Zimbabwe’s human rights record, and the role that the country’s military has played in previous elections, support fears of future violence during the next poll.
AfriForum’s legal representatives had written to the South Africa Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as well as Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, (who chairs the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, the NCACC) about speculation that the SANDF had decided to donate its Alouette fleet to Zimbabwe.
The ministers were given seven days to respond to the letter, but AfriForum did not receive any answer or explanation. Instead spokespeople for both ministers confirmed to the Mail & Guardian newspaper that the donation was finalised and that delivery of the helicopters was imminent.
According to AfriForum’s legal representative, Willie Spies, they are trying to prevent the donation because South Africa risks being complicit in any future violence in Zimbabwe.
“We’ve read reports of new incidents of violence, torture and murder. If that is the way in which ZANU PF conducts the polls, then South Africa cannot be complicit to that,” Spies said.