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Our relations with Zim cannot stand in the way of the law

The Times Editorial | 2012-05-11 00:58:48.0

The Times Editorial: Even though President Jacob Zuma has adopted a far tougher approach to the recalcitrant Robert Mugabe than Thabo Mbeki ever did, our police service has had no qualms in cosying up to their Zimbabwean counterparts.

So much so that members of the SA Police Service's elite Hawks unit stand accused of being involved in the illegal, CIA-style rendition of several Zimbabwean suspects who were taken over the border and murdered or tortured by Zimbabwean authorities.

Among the victims was former Movement for Democratic Change organiser Gift Nhadzi, who was allegedly tortured, along with his wife, after he was spirited over the border.

When the Sunday Times lifted a lid off this shameful state of affairs in October last year, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa initially denied the allegations. But an investigation was launched and Mthethwa told parliament on Wednesday that the probe was nearing completion.

Yesterday, activists from the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum threatened to take several members of the Hawks to The Hague over crimes against humanity if they are not brought to justice in South Africa.

The exiles forum was also one of the applicants in a landmark case in the Pretoria High Court, which ruled that police and the National Prosecuting Authority were obliged - under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court Act - to investigate and charge senior Zimbabwe officials suspected of crimes against humanity should they enter South Africa.

Judge Hans Fabricius was not persuaded by the NPA's argument than such an undertaking could hamper cooperation with the Zimbabwean police in criminal investigations or undermine relations with Zimbabwe, saying "political considerations or diplomatic initiatives are not relevant . having regard to the purpose of the ICC Act".

They might not want to upset the powers-that-be in Zimbabwe but our police and prosecuting authority will have to obey the law.

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