Zuma unlikely to deal with Zim torturers

The day I met Walter, he sat in a secluded spot of in a tavern in Durban. Although he seemed to be enjoying his drink, he would constantly look around to ensure no one was closing in on his quaking frame.


When I got to know him, I understood his fear. Walter is a former operative in the Zimbabwe Republic Police. He was recruited at the pinnacle of political persecution in the 2008 elections. What he observed and did during that phase still haunts him today.

“It was either you follow orders or you become one of the traitors. We did things to innocent people that I am not proud of,” he said in between deep swigs to quell his disquiet. For two years he followed the commands blindly – but then he could not tolerate it any longer and fled to South Africa.

The day I befriended him an announcement had been made: all those who participated in crimes against the innocent would be arrested if they stepped into South Africa. The republic had become his only home – but he is no longer safe here. Back in Zimbabwe he is a wanted man. He left without seeking official leave. Going back is not an option.

But he has nothing much to fear. The ruling does not include him, and if it did, law experts say it would be hard to implement. There are many complications. The president of South Africa is the mediator of the political impasse between the feuding parties in Zimbabwe, a role he inherited from former president, Thabo Mbeki. And he wants to be ‘fair’. He would not want to be viewed as taking sides by implementing the ruling.

The moment Zuma presses the red button he can kiss his mediation role goodbye. And more chaos will unfold in Zimbabwe. It would be easy to arrest the perpetrators. They have made South Africa their home. They have investments here and their spouses indulge in frequent shopping jaunts with pleasure after their trips to Europe were stopped. But who will do it?

As the ANC heads for its electoral conference in December, there are a lot of political challenges facing it at home. Any endeavour to crack down on Zanu (PF) loyalists will be labelled as an allegiance to the opposition. And that is what Jacob Zuma is fighting to avoid.

Meanwhile, many view Zuma as President Robert Mugabe’s confidant. So next time I meet Walter, I will tell him to enjoy his beer because the ruling will not lead to any tribunals – for now. His only threat remains his conscience. Even his former commanders can rest easy – at least while they are still in authority. As for the victims, their sole hope remains a fair electoral process.

Post published in: News

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