South African court blocks delivery of helicopter gunships to Zimbabwe

A regional civic campaign group says a South African court has blocked the delivery of helicopter gunships to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's loyalist military.

AfriForum said Saturday the High Court in Pretoria ordered to put on hold the donation of South Africa's surplus of aging French-designed Alouette combat helicopters until another court application to stop it altogether is heard on Feb. 19.

Willie Spies, the group's spokesman, described statements that the helicopters were stripped of their weapons as "legally flawed." The Alouette, used in counterinsurgency warfare and operations to counter civil unrest since in southern Africa since the 1970s, could not be classified as civilian aircraft, he said.

The group said the helicopters would bolster the "visibility, mobility and presence" of Mugabe's military ahead of elections this year.