A South African court Friday blocked the donation of a fleet of helicopters and spare parts by the South African Defense Force to the Zimbabwean military.
The North Gauteng High Court issued an interim order stopping the delivery of Alouette III Air Force aircraft to Zimbabwe following an urgent application by AfriForum, an Afrikaner rights group.
The interim judgment takes effect pending the hearing of the main application on February 19. AfriForum contends the French-manufactured helicopters may be used by the Zimbabwean Army to campaign for Zanu-PF in the coming elections and violations of human rights.
The group said it is of general knowledge that the Zimbabwean army determined the outcome of the so-called second round of the presidential elections in 2008, following the so-called Operation waVhotera Papi ("for whom did you vote?"), a systematic, brutal suppression of Movement for Democratic Change supporters by the military.
AfriForum contends these will be part of the same system as Zimbabwe moves toward elections this year.
The group said it has also “informed the acting French ambassador to South Africa in writing of the potential risk for his country, in that France may be contravening the arms embargo against Zimbabwe imposed by the European Union.”
AfriForum lawyer Willie Spies told VOA his group jumped into action after rumors spread of the deal, sending a letter eight days ago to the South African Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe, also the chairman of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee.
Spies said the legal group is still yet to receive a response from the responsible officials, whose legal representation failed to address the letter in court.
“The only concern they had was the fact that they were not given sufficient notice to prepare for argument,” said Spies, “but they refused to answer the question why they did not respond to a letter that was written more than a week ago.”
The High Court judge hearing the case found that the donation of helicopters was an issue of human rights, thus granting the interim judgment.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said there is need for transparency on the donation of helicopters by South Africa.
Ruhanya said the Zimbabwean army needs to be equipped but it must not be used as a tool to violate Zimbabweans.