- Last Updated on 10 May 2012
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North Gauteng High Court Judge, Hans Fabricius on Tuesday 8 May 2012 ruled that South Africa must investigate Zimbabwean officials over allegations they tortured pro- democracy activists in 2008. Responding to the landmark ruling, the Executive Director of Southern Africa Litigation C (SALC)said, 'This judgment will send a shiver down the spines of Zimbabwean officials who believed that they would never be held to account for their crimes but now face investigation by the South African authorities.' The court named 17 Zimbabwean officials whom they want arrested and prosecuted.
ZIMRIGHTS National Director and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson, Mr Okay Machisa in an alert from the grassroots organisation said,
"We welcome this development and human rights defenders are going to work hand in hand with the National Prosecuting Authority and Police in South Africa to ensure that it ceases to be a 'usual' way of life for perpetrators travelling to South Africa scot free when back home victims have not seen justice. These perpetrators must be arrested!"
Mr Dewa Mavhinga, the Regional Coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition also noted that:
"The landmark SA judgment comes at a critical time when Zimbabwe is preparing for elections and we expect that it will be a deterrent to overzealous party supporters who may wish to commit political violence. Also, all those implicated in political violence and other serious human rights abuses will have to think twice before setting foot in South Africa and it is now clear that authorities in South Africa have clear obligations, under international criminal justice norms and the Rome Statute, to investigate and prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe."
In as much as these positive developments are welcome, the question is, Will anything come out of the South African ruling? Justice and Legal Affairs Minister, Patrick Chinamasa described the ruling as irrelevant saying it was a general judgement without specifics. Minister Chinamasa said,
"The court judgement brings the SA justice system into disrepute and that this was part of efforts by ex-Rhodesians pushing for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe."
He further said the ruling was part of an agenda aimed at putting Zimbabwe in the spotlight ahead of a visit to Zimbabwe by the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Ms Navi Pillay.
This is not the first time that the Harare administration has disregarded court rulings and communiquÃ©s from regional players. Last year, President Robert Mugabe lashed out at the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security after it delivered its strongest rebuke at a summit held in Livingstone, calling for an end to intimidation and proscription of MDC meetings. The SADC Organ said in a communiquÃ© there must be an immediate end to violence, intimidation, hate speech, harassment, and any other form of action that contradicts the letter and spirit of the GPA. The party demanded that the resolutions made on Zimbabwe be overturned, calling on the Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to reverse the position. More than a year after the communiquÃ© was issued, violence remains a reality in Zimbabwe's political environment, the public media continues to churn out hate speech, harassment and intimidation of pro- democracy advocates is rife while ZANU PF's sustained disregard of the GPA is impeding development and democracy.
ZANU-PF has shown consistency in its brazen disregard of the rule of law as noted also in how the Minister of State Security Didymus Mutasa said the Southern African Development Community Tribunal of November 2008 was "daydreaming" after it ruled that Zimbabwe's land reform programme was racially discriminatory and violated Zimbabwe's SADC treaty obligations with regard to upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights. The political party disregarded and disrespected the judgment threatening to pull out of SADC which later resulted SADC suspending the Tribunal in 2011 by a year arguing that it was not properly constituted.
It is evident that ZANU PF remains obstinate in its belief that any forward looking country or bloc which castigates rampant human rights abuses taking place in the country has a 'regime change agenda' and is 'an agent of imperialism'. The political party banks on anarchy and the use of unorthodox means such as violence, intimidation and torture to remain in power. For victims of torture whose faith in the partisan judicial system has waned, regional and international justice systems are the only solution to fair trial and possible reparation.
Zimbabweans are pinning their hopes on the SADC facilitation process which they believe is the only organ that will remove them from the dungeons of repression and trampling of human rights. SADC and the international community must ignore Zanu PF's hopeless attempts to distract them from the real issues which include the completion of the elections roadmap, full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), a return to the rule of law, respect for property rights and many other tenets of democracy.