SA NGOs reject Zuma’s stance on Zim report

NGOs have taken further steps to force the Presidency to publish a report by retired army generals into state-sanctioned violence in Zimbabwe, the South African History Archive (Saha) said on Friday.

They had submitted an internal appeal to President Jacob Zuma’s office in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, disputing his claim that the document does not exist.

The Saha, the South African Litigation Centre and the Southern African Centre for Survivors of Torture last month invoked the Act to get the report — which was commissioned by former president Thabo Mbeki — into the public domain a year after the generals conducted two fact-finding missions in Zimbabwe.

Mbeki asked the team to assess the extent of the army’s involvement in the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The NGOs said they were convinced that the six generals produced a hard-hitting report that influenced the power-sharing deal Mbeki brokered between Zimbabwe’s political rivals last September.

But Zuma’s office had insisted the generals never reported back to Mbeki in writing.

Frank Chikane, the director general in the presidency under Mbeki, and Trevor Fowler, who currently holds the post, produced affidavits in which they said there was not only no report, but no supporting documentation on the generals’ mission.

The Saha said it was hard to believe that they were not asked to document their findings, as the mission cost the South African taxpayer nearly R650 000, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“To suggest that this amount of money could be spent and the admitted investigation conducted merely for a once-off oral briefing to be made to the president … beggars belief.”

“Consequently, the NGOs involved submit that the president ‘must be mistaken’ and that ‘the overwhelming probability is that the documents must exist’.”

Saha spokesperson Fritz Schoon said the appeal was handed to Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane last week. Zuma’s office had 30 days to respond to it.

If he were to reject the request, Schoon said, going to court would be the NGOs last resort to obtain the report.

Human rights groups accused President Robert Mugabe of unleashing a systematic campaign of violence on opposition supporters after his Zanu(PF) lost control of Parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in elections in March 2008.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claimed at least 100 of his supporters were killed.

Mail & Guardian Online

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