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Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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SA under pressure to release report on Zim election violence

SA under pressure to release report on Zim election violence

 By Alex Bell
 27 January 2010

 The South African government is set to come under renewed pressure to release a potentially explosive report on post election violence in Zimbabwe, which has been kept hidden from public scrutiny for well over a year.

 The South African History Archive and the Southern African Centre for the Survivors of Torture is set to ask the Pretoria High Court to force the government to release the report. The two groups, with the support of the
 Southern African Litigation Centre, last week filed papers in court asking that the Presidency be ‘compelled’ to release the contents of the report which is believed to have been given to former president Thabo Mbeki.

 In May 2008 Mbeki commissioned four retired SA generals to visit Zimbabwe and report back on the violence which erupted after the March 2008 presidential elections. But that report was never released. The presidency,
 under Jacob Zuma, has made claims that former President Thabo Mbeki never received a written report, but only oral feedback from the retired generals.

 The Centre for Survivors of Torture, the Litigation Centre and the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, last year invoked the ‘Promotion of Access to Information Act’ to force the President’s Office to release the report. This request was turned down, with the Presidency claiming that no such report existed. A subsequent internal appeal was also denied. The Presidency was again approached by the History Archive, which this time requested any of the supporting documents on the generals’ mission. This request was also denied and the Presidency continued to insist that no such documents existed.

 The court will now be asked to review all these refusals and to force the government to release documents relating to the generals’ report. No date had yet been set for the hearing.

 The groups have insisted that the report paints a ‘devastating’ picture of state-sponsored violence, which apparently shifted Mbeki’s perceptions on the situation in Zimbabwe.

 “The report is believed to have been hard-hitting and instrumental in the evolution of subsequent negotiations leading to the September Global Political Agreement,” they said in a combined statement last year.

 This is not the first time that the South African government has refused to publicise reports related to the crisis in Zimbabwe. In 2002, then President Mbeki appointed Judge Sisi Khampepe and current Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke to observe the Presidential election in Zimbabwe, but their report has never been released. More recently, the government asked the Constitutional Court not to publicly release a secret 60-page report containing correspondence between the South African and Zimbabwean governments.


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