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China denies jet fighters report

Dumisani Muleya

CHINA made frantic efforts this week to deny reports that it sold Zimbabwe US$240 million worth of jet fighters and military vehicles.

vetica, sans-serif”>Chinese diplomats in South Africa and Zimbabwe scrambled belatedly to deny reports of the military hardware purchase. One of the diplomats claimed China had not sold weapons to Zimbabwe since he arrived in Zimbabwe in 2001.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Harare, Nan Xiao, said Zimbabwe had not “ordered or bought” fighters and army vehicles from his country.

He said Zimbabwe had not bought any arms from China since he arrived in Harare in 2001, despite reports to the contrary.

“It’s not true that the Zimbabwe government bought military equipment from China,” Xiao said in an interview. “The Zimbabwean army has not bought anything from us.”

This followed a similar denial by Liu Guijin, China’s ambassador to South

Africa. Guijin said he had contacted the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhang Xianyi, and established that the report was not true. “We find that the report is not true and it is baseless,” he said.

Zimbabwe reportedly ordered 12 FC-1 jet fighters and 100 military vehicles. The story broke three weeks ago after the Ministry of Defence’s permanent secretary Trust Maphosa appeared before parliament’s portfolio committee on Defence and Home Affairs on the issue.

Neither Maphosa nor the parliamentary committee have publicly denied the reports. Saviour Kasukuwere, chairman of the committee, on Tuesday refused to discuss the matter, citing “national security”.

“It’s a confidential matter. Let’s leave it because it compromises national security,” he said. Efforts to get comment from Maphosa failed.

Military sources said China was denying the reports to avoid publicity over its burgeoning arms trade. South Africa – the only country in Africa with a well-established arms industry – has reportedly voiced concerns about Chinese arms “floating in the region”.

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