Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

High Court Orders South African Authorities To Investigate Crimes Against Humanity Committed In Zimbabwe

High Court Orders South African Authorities To Investigate Crimes Against 
Humanity Committed In Zimbabwe

News Release – Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
8 May 2012

JOHANNESBURG – In a landmark decision for local and international justice, 
the North Gauteng High Court ruled this morning that the South African 
authorities must investigate Zimbabwean officials, who are accused of 
involvement in torture and crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
“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,” said Nicole Fritz, 
Executive Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which 
brought the case along with the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF).

In a very strong ruling, Judge Hans Fabricius said that the National 
Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) had 
acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully in not taking forward the original 
investigation. His judgment also underlined in the strongest terms South 
Africa’s obligations under international law.

“This decision is not just about Zimbabwe, it also sets a much broader 
precedent by ruling that South African authorities have a duty to 
investigate international crimes wherever they take place,” said Fritz. “It 
is a major step forward for international criminal justice.”

In March 2012, SALC and ZEF argued in the High Court that the decision of 
the NPA and SAPS not to investigate Zimbabwean officials linked to acts of 
state-sanctioned torture should be set aside. Brought in terms of South 
Africa’s International Criminal Court Act, which defines torture as a crime 
against humanity, the applicants’ argued that the NPA and SAPS had failed to 
take into account South Africa’s international and domestic law obligations 
to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes regardless 
of where they are committed or by whom.

The case highlighted South Africa’s duty to investigate crimes against 
humanity, the sufficiency of the evidence presented by SALC to the NPA and 
SAPS to trigger an investigation and how irrelevant considerations – such as 
political concerns – improperly influenced the decision. The case also 
exposed divisions within the NPA after Anton Ackermann, the head of the 
Priority Crimes Litigation Unit that is responsible for the investigation 
and prosecution of international crimes, stated in an affidavit that he 
believed that an investigation should have been initiated and that he was 
not satisfied with the manner in which SALC’s request was dealt with.
For more information and interviews contact:

Nicole Fritz, SALC Executive Director,  +27 11 587 5065 , Cell +27 82 600 
1028; [email protected]
Gabriel Shumba, ZEF Chairperson, Cell  +27 72 639 3795
Alan Wallis, SALC, Off  + 27 11 587 5065 , Cell  +27 82 826 5700
[email protected]

SALC promotes human rights and the rule of law in southern Africa through 
litigation, advocacy and training. ZEF seeks to combat impunity and achieve 
justice for human rights violations in Zimbabwe and to support Zimbabweans 
in exile. Lawyers for Human Rights represented SALC and ZEF in this matter.

Ethel Maphiwa-Ndlovu
Office Manager
Southern Africa Litigation Centre
t: +27 (0) 11 587 5000
f: +27 (0) 11 587 5099
[email protected]

Court Orders S. African Prosecutors to Investigate Torture in Zimbabwe

May 08, 2012

Delia Robertson | Johannesburg

South Africa’s high court has ordered prosecutors to investigate Zimbabwean 
officials who alleged committed torture and human rights abuses in the 
run-up to Zimbabwe’s violent and disputed 2008 elections.  The decision has 
important practical, political and diplomatic implications for South Africa.

Judge Hans Fabricius told the National Prosecuting Authority to probe 
accusations contained in a dossier of complaints compiled by the South 
African Litigation Center and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum.  Nicole Fritz of 
the Litigation Center says the complainants accuse 18 Zimbabweans of torture 
and abuse.

“One is not talking about isolated incidents, it is not one crime,” she 
said.  “We are talking about a huge of number of individuals who can testify 
to the same type of crime being committed against them.  It is widespread 
and systematic.”

South Africa is a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute which brought about the 
International Criminal Court, and passed implementing legislation in 2002. 
Fritz says this enables South Africa to prosecute individuals of human 
rights crimes committed elsewhere.

“That gives South African investigating and prosecuting authorities power to 
investigate and prosecute international crimes, genocide crimes against 
humanity, where the perpetrators of those crimes are present on South 
African territory after having committed such crimes,” said Fritz.

Fritz says the complainants are members of the Movement for Democratic 
Change, who were detained when the party’s headquarters was raided by 
security officials of President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2007.  She 
says a number of the accused officials travel regularly to South Africa, for 
both official and personal reasons and that the local authorities have 
enough information to identify and arrest them should they again enter the 

The names of the accused have not been released and there was no immediate 
comment from Zimbabwe’s government or Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

Fritz says that, while it is preferable to secure justice in the location in 
which crimes occur, this is not possible in Zimbabwe because the rule of law 
there has collapsed and there are no feasible or credible ways to ensure the 
accused are prosecuted.

Fritz says South Africa played a leading role in negotiating the Rome 
Statute. “South Africa was once a leader of the international criminal 
justice project; it led at the Rome negotiations in securing an independent 
court, its implementing legislation is a model the world over, for what 
should be done, and the court basically said you need to live up to the 
vision of those efforts at [the] Rome Statute and the vision that is 
contained in implementing legislation,” she said.

South Africa has also become home to several individuals wanted in their own 
countries for crimes against humanity, and Fritz says the ruling is a 
warning to those who seek to use this country as a safe haven that they 
cannot expect to enjoy impunity here.

Prosecuting authorities in South Africa are already burdened with a high 
incidence of serious crime to investigate, and may find it difficult to 
obtain the resources to investigate several hundred cases of Zimbabwean 

Also, the ruling could further complicate South Africa’s role as mediator to 
the parties in the shaky coalition government in Zimbabwe.


New ZACC chair spells out vision

New ZACC chair spells out vision   1/6/2019 The Herald From George Maponga in Masvingo Newly-appointed Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) chair Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo has

Read More »

Matanda-Moyo sworn in as ZACC boss

Matanda-Moyo sworn in as ZACC boss     31/5/2019 Newly-appointed Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo (left) accompanied by her husband Foreign Affairs and International

Read More »

ZACC officers wind up training

ZACC officers wind up training    30/5/2019 Source: ZACC officers wind up training | The Herald Herald ReporterTwenty-three Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) officers who were being trained

Read More »

New Posts: