Procurement: March 21, 2004


With European sanctions on Zimbabwe beginning to take their toll on the country's defense machinery, Zimbabwe's military has decided to "look East" for arms supplies. Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantine Chiwenga was in China this past week to meet with Chinese Defense officials and sign agreements for military exchange programs.

Zimbabwean state security departments were told in early February to phase out all European-manufactured ammunition, vehicles, helicopters and fighter planes, after government failed to secure spare parts from Britain and other EU countries following the imposition of sanctions.

Zimbabwe had used British-manufactured Hawk fighter/trainer planes, bombs and missiles during the Congo War (1998-2000), but the military claimed that they had been problematic before Britain imposed an arms embargo two years ago. The army also denied that they were struggling to service French Acmat and Austrian Steyr troop carrying trucks delivered around 1998. Zimbabwe also used to get helicopter spare parts from Italy, but that's no longer possible. 

Most of the police Land Rover Defender trucks have since ground to a halt and since last year, they have been purchasing Mazda pick-up trucks. The police currently have about 1,500 vehicles, but need more than 7,000 to operate efficiently. 

Zimbabwe has used Chinese-made tanks and fighter aircraft for years, but those systems have well-known liabilities. At this point, the need for a dependable source of supply parts is driving Harare's decision-making process. The ZDF started sending its officers more frequently to China for familiarization courses in 2002, following the imposition of sanctions. 

However, there are rumors that the government had stopped military exchange programs and advancement courses with Western countries deemed hostile to Zimbabwe's interests. The same sources also claim that the ZDF had stopped sending military attachs to Britain and other European countries that have cut ties with Zimbabwe over its less-than-spectacular human rights record. Zimbabwe still has military attachs in a number of European countries, but there are no training programs taking place. - Adam Geibel


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