Iran says it is ready to reinvigorate Zimbabwe’s defence power, which has suffered over the last decade due to political instability.
Iran’s defence minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi told his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa over the weekend that “we are fully prepared to help Zimbabwe’s military forces in any way possible,” the Fars new agency reports.
“We will help strengthen their military so that they are able to protect their land and culture, especially so they are prepared against the pressures and threats from Western countries.” Vahidi made the comments during a visit to Tehran by Mnangagwa, who was there by invitation.
Mnangagw and Vahidi said that both countries had put up resistance against colonialism and the hegemony of global powers and attempted to circumvent and survive foreign sanctions.
Vahidi said that six joint commissions have been set up between Tehran and Harare, which is testimony to the fact that the two countries enjoy good relations in all areas.
Over the last several years Tehran has attempted to strengthen its ties with Zimbabwe, and has launched a number of projects, including the construction of a helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul centre in Harare, VOA reports. Iran has also provided oil and farming equipment to the southern African nation. Furthermore, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Zimibabwe in 2010 and held talks with President Robert Mugabe.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met with Mnangagwe on Sunday, and said that he hoped ties would be increased between Iran and Zimbabwe.
“Despite the outsiders’ efforts meant to hinder and stop Iran’s progress through the exertion of political and economic pressure, fortunately, the Islamic Iran, through reliance on its indigenous potential, has independently succeeded in making outstanding achievements in various fields of science and technology, including achievements in the fields of peaceful nuclear (technology), aerospace, and nano(technology), and has attained self-sufficiency in the defence industry,” Salehi said.
Iran’s Deputy Defence Minister Majid Bokaei on Saturday said that Iran plans to sell more military equipment to “friendly and neighbouring countries” this year.
At the moment Zimbabwe receives most of its military support from China, which is the country’s leading arms supplier, providing at least US$66 million worth of small arms during Zimbabwe’s involvement in the civil war in the DRC (1998-2002). Since 2004 China has sold to Zimbabwe 139 military vehicles and 24 combat aircraft.
However, Zimbabwe sometimes struggles to take delivery of weapons due to sanctions. In 2008 South Africa prevented delivery of six containers of small arms and equipment when they stopped the China Ocean Shipping Company’s vessel An Yue Jiang from unloading in Durban. The weapons on board were shipped by Poly Technologies Incorporated of China.
According to the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgian research hub, in August 2008, 53 tons of ammunition were allegedly flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Harare. The ammunition was flown by Enterprise World Airways, aboard a Boeing 707-3B4C aircraft registered as 9Q-CRM.
“The most prominent supplier of arms to Zimbabwe has been China, which supplied more than one-third of the volume of Zimbabwe’s major weapons between 1980 and 2009,” the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has said.
The Institute said that China supplied 100 Dongfeng military vehicles to Zimbabwe via the Mozambican port of Beira in early 2005.
China is also building a military college in Zimbabwe. Chinese company Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company is building the National Defence College in Harare. Construction began last year and expected to be complete in five years time.
Zimbabwe reportedly took delivery of 20 000 AK-47 assault rifles from China last year.