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does not mean freedom to kill one’s own people
December 02, 2013
View this article
on the SW Radio Africa website
a full bench of five judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal in South
Africa upheld a landmark legal order which compels “the prosecuting
authorities in South Africa to investigate
crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe”.
This followed last year’s
ruling in which the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the National
Prosecuting Authority in South Africa and the country’s police
“must investigate state-sanctioned torture and other crimes
against humanity committed by Zimbabwean officials in 2007”.
Last year, the SA government
had argued that, “undertaking such investigations would interfere
with our political mediation efforts in Zimbabwe”.
But, last week, the Court
invoked the Rome Statute, saying that the South African authorities
had a duty to probe allegations of torture as required by the Rome
Statute, to which South Africa is signatory.
The ruling made it clear
that “the perpetrators of the crimes in Zimbabwe can be held
accountable in South Africa regardless of where the offending acts
took place”, adding that “such crimes strike ‘at
the whole of humankind and impinge on the international conscience’”.
Describing the ruling
as absurd, Zimbabwe’s Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana,
who himself ignored prosecuting perpetrators of the murders when
he was Attorney General, quickly pulled out of the bag the issue
of sovereignty and spiced it up with subtle threats to South Africa.
He said that this might spark a diplomatic incident between the
Tomana said: “South
Africa cannot arrest Zimbabwe military chiefs without violating
the Geneva Conventions. They would be sparking a diplomatic row.”
He added that Zimbabwe
has its own law enforcement systems and that it is important for
nations to respect each other.
Since the arrival of
Europeans and the subsequent establishment of colonies in Africa,
South Africa has always carried a big brother mentality towards
its northern neighbour, known by various names of Southern Rhodesia,
Rhodesia and now known as Zimbabwe.
Because of South Africa’s
obsession with the country, Zimbabwe’s march towards independence
was delayed for years as apartheid South Africa supported successive
white governments in Rhodesia in an effort to douse simmering nationalist
aspirations in the country. Having wrestled South West Africa (now
Namibia) from the League of Nations and with Botswana having been
cowered into treading carefully, South Africa supported Portugal
against rising nationalist independence passions in Portuguese East
Africa (now Mozambique).
South Africa, therefore,
managed to create a buffer between itself and the advancing so-called
political winds of change that were clearly blowing south from Africa’s
north. South Africa’s northern borders with its neighbors,
stretching from the Atlantic Ocean all the way across southern Africa
to the Indian Ocean, were secured by the presence of governments
sympathetic to or supported by apartheid South Africa.
Successive white governments
in South Africa stood by the successive white minority governments
in the then Rhodesia. The two governments were close, very close.
South Africa, however,
failed to stop independence from coming to Mozambique, Zimbabwe
and Namibia and when South Africa itself finally became independent,
the African rulers of that country stood by regional governments
that were clearly abusing their own citizens.
South Africa is not speaking
up. While I submit that South Africa has become an embarrassment
in as far as its failure to encourage Africa’s democracies
along is concerned, I also believe that the cosy relationships between
South Africa and African leaders who are killing their citizens
is a selfish, short-sighted policy that will not benefit South Africa
in the long run.
South Africans went through
so much pain during apartheid. They suffered for so long while the
entire world watched. They, of all people, know what it is like
to be abused by your own protectors. And here I sit, wondering who
bewitched South Africa into supporting terror governments across
I am tempted to call
Tomana an idiot and I will because he knows very well that the world
cannot stand by when genocide is being committed. South Africa,
by its sheer geography, economic presence in Zimbabwe and Africa
and our historical connections and political intercourse, has always
been present in Zimbabwe.
But South Africa has
always looked the other way when Robert Mugabe went on his murderous
South Africa saved Mugabe
by its inactivity in 2008.
saved Mugabe during the lifetime of the unity
And were it not for South
Africa, Tomana and Mugabe would not be sitting in the chairs they
occupy in Zimbabwe today.
Tomana should be ashamed
of betraying the principles of his profession and for failing to
prosecute wrongdoers on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe.
He should not think that
his ineptitude and failure to uphold the laws of Zimbabwe is what
others dealing with law and order in other countries are doing.
The heart of the matter
is that Tomana killed our people by not arresting and stopping our
killers. He failed to protect our citizens and abused the law by
applying it selectively.
type of law enforcement is a disgrace to his profession and a shame
to the nation. Zimbabwe is part of the community of nations. There
is nothing special about us except us and we are only special if
we play by the rules.
We must maintain our
decency no matter what.
We cannot continue to
single ourselves out and opting out of international groupings that
seek to assist us all in living peacefully among ourselves and among
There comes a time when
we have to listen to others; a time to listen to those who have
stood by us as friends. As a nation among others, there comes a
time for us to take as we give.
Yes, we can refuse to
be part of the Rome Statute; we can pull out of the Commonwealth;
we can threaten to pull out of SADC and we can insult all people
across the universe but we are still part of the community and we
cannot run away from that.
The ruling in South Africa
should be taken by people like Tomana as a reminder to what his
responsibilities are. They have to serve the nation and protect
the people. It is not politics; it is professionalism. And they
all can do this while singing for their supper.
There is nothing more
revolting than an official of the law coming out in support and
in protection of law breakers. Enough of this nonsense.
Zimbabwe needs to take
its rightful place among other nations and we cannot continue to
have situations where our own officials behave like monkeys in a
Tomana should be in the
forefront of upholding the law. At least he should think of those
who spent so much to send him to school. He should retrace his footsteps
and ensure that all lawbreakers are prosecuted regardless of their
positions in society and in government.
Zimbabwe must play its
role in dealing with international crime. We must be among those
who apprehend criminals, from car thieves, crooked police officers,
wayward military personnel, genocidal dictators to terrorists.
Because one day we may
find ourselves in a pit full of vipers and there won’t be
anyone there to assist us.
South Africa must press
ahead and carry out that investigation and Zimbabwe must promise
to assist all the way and ensure that those found with blame be
brought before a court of law and face the consequences.
Not a single Zimbabwean’s
life must be lost to appease a politician. All crimes must be investigated
and prosecuted. South Africa’s investigations are welcome;
Tomana must thank the South Africans.
Sovereignty does not
mean killing one’s own people without consequences.
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