Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today praised leaders in Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania for blocking attempts by a Chinese vessel to deliver a massive shipment of ammunition, mortars, and other lethal armaments to the embattled Zimbabwean government.

“With this action, African leaders have taken a principled stand to safeguard the Zimbabwean people and to reinforce their rights,” Berman said. “If these weapons had reached their destination, they could well have delivered the deaths of many civilians caught in a brutal government campaign to suppress opposition.”

President Robert Mugabe’s government remains in power after a March 29 national election for which the official results have not yet been released, pending a recount. The opposition says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the election; international elections monitors have accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of tampering with the recount. Meanwhile, militias supporting Mugabe reportedly have established bases throughout Zimbabwe in regions where support for the opposition is rising; the militias are said to be brutally attacking villagers and destroying their homes.

The arms cargo from China reportedly includes 3 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes.