SA remains tight-lipped on court ruling

The South African government remained tight-lipped this week regarding a recent court ruling compelling it to investigate officials implicated in torture in neighbouring Zimbabwe, amid reports that it prefers a political solution.

Solomon Chikohwero
Solomon Chikohwero

In the landmark ruling passed last Tuesday, Judge Hans Fabricius ordered the neighbouring country to investigate Zimbabwean officials implicated in torture and crimes against humanity in that country.

The National Prosecuting Authority would not speak on the ruling on the phone and had not responded to an email sent to them at the time of going to print.

Exiled Zimbabweans and political parties are already celebrating the ruling, which they believe will put a damper on President Robert Mugabe’s over-reliance on torture as a way of winning elections.

The SA government had at the beginning of this week still not indicated whether it would exercise its two week appeal period, which ends on May 29. A source indicated to The Zimbabwean this week that President Jacob Zuma’s administration preferred a political solution to the matter, rather than a legal one.

“The government is still weighing options on whether it cannot solve this in its capacity as the SADC-appointed mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis,” said a source early this week.

“The matter is a very complicated one because the same political solution has failed to solve the problem in the past, with Zanu (PF) still said to be continuing with the torture, which South Africa is strongly against, as it knows that its continuation will mean that there can be no free and fair elections in Zimbabwe any time soon. No decision has been taken yet, as officials are still debating the matter.”

Some members of Zuma’s ruling African National Congress are said to be holding the view that should the investigations be done, they will further stain diplomatic relations between the two governments, following Mugabe’s outrage at Zuma’s facilitation role, which has assumed a tougher stance lately.

“Others say allowing the judgment to stand, even without action on the ground, would give Zanu (PF) second thoughts on whether to continue the use of violence ahead of the coming constitutional referendum and elections,” added the source, a senior legal official.

Human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba, whose organisation, the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, dragged the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service to court in conjunction with the South African Litigation Centre, said the organisations were also weighing out their own options.

“In the meantime, we are also examining our options, but from the ZEF side, we think that it is critical to raise awareness on what the judgment means, not only for ordinary Zimbabweans, but also for the authorities who are expected to implement it. We are thus trying to raise the necessary resources to enable us to do that,” said Shumba, who also went through life-threatening torture in the hands of Zimbabwean authorities for representing tortured political activists back home.

Meanwhile, political activists and opposition parties were still celebrating the court ruling early this week, raising hopes that they would be able to find justice at last.

“We have been denied justice in Zimbabwe, where the whole justice system favours Zanu (PF) and getting recourse in South African courts is very welcome,” said torture victim, Solomon Chikohwero, founding leader of the MDC Veteran Activists Association.

“Since 2000, victims of torture have lived with the pain of seeing the same people who perpetrated that against them walking the local streets freely, while the same victim cannot go back home and do the same.

David Magagula, spokesman for secessionist group, Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF), which is also pushing for a truth and reconciliation on the 1980s killings in which President Robert Mugabe’s soldiers killed more than 20 000 civilians in the southern parts of the country, also saluted the judgment.

“We are pleased that at least our people now have somewhere to report and seek protection from the colonial government of Robert Mugabe,” said Magagula.

“We have information and records of our people who have been "stolen" from South Africa and shot in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean intelligence operatives enter South Africa and force those they are looking for into their vehicles and take them for killing in Zimbabwean killing fields.”

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *