Country Risk

Chinese armour plays prominent role in Zimbabwe coup

17 November 2017
Soldiers sit on a command post variant of the Type 89 parked in central Harare on 16 November. Source: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) made extensive use of Chinese-made Type 89 armoured vehicles during what appeared to be a bloodless coup that ousted President Robert Mugabe on 14 November.

Photographs and video footage of ZNA deployments around the capital Harare showed multiple Type YW534s, the armoured personnel carrier (APC) variant of the Type 89, armed with 12.7 mm heavy machine guns.

At least one armoured recovery vehicle, one mortar carrier, one ambulance, and two command post variants of the Type 89 were also deployed. At least one Type YW307, the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) variant armed with a 25 mm turret, was also observed.

The YW534 is a 14.5-tonne vehicle with a crew of two and up to 13 dismounts. While the Type 89 series is very similar to the Type 85, it is slightly longer and the APC version has four firing ports and episcopes on each side of its hull instead of three. The YW307 is heavier at 15.4 tonnes and has a crew of three with seven dismounts.

Neither the UN Register of Conventional Arms nor the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has any record of the delivery of Type 89s to Zimbabwe.

The vehicles appeared to be well-maintained, despite Zimbabwe’s economic problems over the last decade.

None of the other types of armoured vehicles that the ZNA has in its inventory, which include EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars and EE-11 Urutu APCs, were seen during the operation.

Eyewitness reports and video footage of Type 89s on their way into Harare indicated the armoured vehicles came from Inkomo Barracks near Nyabira, the base of the ZNA’s Mechanised Brigade.

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