National

AfriForum wins bid to halt Zim helicopter delivery

Staff Reporter

Afriforum has won a bid to prevent the South African National Defence Force from delivering Alouette III Air Force helicopters to the Zimbabwean army.

The Alouette III helicopter is a utilitarian machine, known for its durability. (AFP)

The interim court order was issued by the North Gauteng High Court on Friday.

According to a statement sent on Saturday, the interim order will stand pending the finalisation of the main application by February 19 2013.

Willie Spies, Legal Representative for Afriforum, said the organisation was overjoyed that the application was successful. He added that AfriForum would continue to use all legal avenues at its disposal to prevent delivery of the aircraft to Zimbabwe.

Afriforum issued an urgent application to the court on Friday after news about the donation to the Zimbabwean government broke.

On Friday, the Mail & Guardian reported the South African Defence Force (SANDF) was to donate Alouette III helicopters and spares to the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF).

Fears surfaced that the retired military helicopters would be used to prop up Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold elections by the end of March, although they are widely expected to be delayed for some months. Apprehension is building in civil society and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said that the military would step in, as it did during the violent 2008 presidential run-off to save Mugabe.

Spies told the M&G that Afriforum had been approached by a number of people who felt that the donation of helicopters by the defence force meant that the SA government was sanctioning a war in Zimbabwe.

"We realised the supply of military equipment cannot just be done but has to be under legislation," he said.

"We have 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, as imposed by the European Union, as the South African Government will now be donating imported French helicopter parts to Zimbabwe," Spies said in the statement.

The Alouette III helicopter, which has flown Southern African skies for more than half a century, is a utilitarian machine, known for its durability and is called the draadkar, or "wire car" – a comment on its not very fetching appearance.

Developed by the French in the late 1950s, the Alouette debuted in both the South African and Rhodesian militaries in 1962.

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