JOHANNESBURG — Two civil society groups on Monday launched a legal bid to compel South African authorities to investigate and prosecute Zimbabwean officials accused of crimes against humanity.
The Southern African Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) said there were 18 high-level Zimbabwean officials in South Africa accused of committing acts of torture.
The application was lodged in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Officials at the centre said they submitted a comprehensive dossier to the National Prosecuting Authority in March 2008.
Documents detailed instances of torture through witness accounts, testimonials and medical reports.
More than a year later, they were told no investigation would take place.
Centre director Nicole Fritz said this violated South Africa’s international law obligations under the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“South Africa does not want to be a refuge for criminals responsible for the worst kinds of crime.”
She said it was the only way to make sure that responsible face justice.
The case which will be heard at the end of March was based on a docket detailing acts of torture committed after police raided MDC-T’s Harvest House headquarters in 2008.
Gabriel Shumba, the ZEF chairperson, said they wanted Zimbabwean officials implicated in the crimes to be arrested when they enter South Africa.
“Since the ICC Act obliges South Africa to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes if they enter South Africa, the Zimbabwean officials identified in the docket should have been arrested when they set foot in South Africa or at the very least questioned,” he said.
MDC-T claims hundreds of its supporters were killed by suspected Zanu PF supporters and State security agents ahead of the 2008 controversial presidential elections where President Robert Mugabe ran unchallenged.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who led in the first round of the polls was forced to withdraw because of the violence.
Efforts to have the perpetrators prosecuted in Zimbabwe have so far hit a brick wall.