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Zim chopper interdict confirmed

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alouette

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

The Alouette III. File photo: Stephanie Oosthuizen

Pretoria -An interim court order to stop the proposed delivery of South Africa's fleet of Alouette III helicopters to the Zimbabwean Air Force was confirmed in the High Court in Pretoria on Friday.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) and the Secretary of Defence did not oppose the granting of a final interdict.

The interdict will stand pending the finalisation of civil rights group AfriForum's application to review the SANDF's decision to donate its entire fleet of unwanted Alouette III helicopters and spares to Zimbabwe.

The review application will be heard in the High Court on March 27.

In terms of the court order the defence minister was given until February 28 to deliver a full record of the decision making process to the court.

AfriForum's legal representative Willie Spies said the battle to stop human rights atrocities in Zimbabwe would continue.

The Alouette helicopters were in service in the SA Air Force for over 40 years but became obsolete with the arrival of a fleet of Italian-made helicopters procured as part of the controversial arms deal.

The helicopters were used in the Bush War by the then SA Air Force in “hot pursuit operations”.

The former Rhodesian Defence Force also used Alouette helicopters during the Rhodesian Bush War against Zanla and Zipra forces and the helicopters have been used in combat by the Zimbabwean Air Force since independence.

Zimbabwe could however not obtain new helicopters or maintain its fleet because of an arms embargo by France, where the helicopters are manufactured.

Members of the opposition have expressed concern that the donation of the helicopters would send out a message that the South African government condoned the use of force by the Zimbabwean Defence Force to return President Robert Mugabe to power in the upcoming elections in that country.

AfriForum maintained in court papers the SANDF was not legally empowered to make such a decision and that they did not comply with mandatory and material procedures and conditions prescribed by the National Conventional Arms Control Act.

The organisation's Kallie Kriel alleged in an affidavit the decision was materially influenced by an error in law, was taken arbitrarily and capriciously, was unreasonable and should have been reconsidered in view of changed circumstances and new developments.

Kriel said AfriForum was “stunned” when information relating to the deal was received and had no doubt that a rational decision could not have been taken in terms of prevailing legislation.

“We believe that a transaction in terms of which helicopters and spares which would surely be used a part of political struggle, and where the probability exists that human rights of people may be violated, cannot be in accordance with the policy of government in respect of arms control to ensure the implementation of legitimate, effective and a transparent control process,” he said. - Sapa


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