Tanks spark Zim arms fears
22/04/2008 12:14 - (SA)
Johannesburg - A truckload of "Chinese-looking" tanks spotted by a military buff outside Pietermaritzburg early on Tuesday caused a brief stir over whether the controversial arms consignment bound for Zimbabwe had slipped through the net.
"Tanks? Did you say tanks?" said Defence Secretary January Masilela. "I know nothing about that."
The tanks, seen under a partially open tarpaulin flapping in the wind, were seen driving through Cato Ridge, outside Pietermaritzburg at 07:40, and a former military officer suggested that they may form part of the controversial consignment bound for Zimbabwe.
However, ship's clearing agent Anton van Rensburg said: "They are going to the military in the Northern Cape for joint military exercises between Singapore and South Africa.
"They have been temporarily imported for the exercises which will take place next week and finish in May. They are Singaporean tanks and they arrived yesterday (Monday).
"I can assure you, and Zimbabweans, that they are definitely not going to Zimbabwe. They have got nothing to do with Zimbabwe. They will be re-exported at the end of the month."
Van Rensburg said members of the Singaporean armed forces also arrived in South Africa, as they are the only people permitted to drive the tanks.
The An Yue Jiang lifted its anchor off Durban on Friday night moments after the Durban High Court ordered it to dock in Durban and offload its controversial cargo into the custody of the sheriff of Durban.
Meanwhile, Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation Centre, which secured the court order, said they were monitoring two other ships, the Feng Shun Shan and the Le Shan, which arrived in Durban and Richards Bay on April 20 and 21 respectively."We are still trying to confirm that they come from the same shipping company (as the An Yue Jiang)," said Fritz.