Lusaka, Zambia - South Africa is to investigate crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe involving widespread rape perpetrated in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential elections.
AIDS-Free World disclosed in a statement released Monday that the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation of the South African Police Service (SAPS) have formally agreed to open an investigation into the widespread rape.
AIDS-Free World said at this moment, justice for the Zimbabwean victims of politically-motivated rape rests entirely in the hands of South African authorities, pointing out that prosecuting the crimes against humanity domestically in Zimbabwe is not possible in the current political climate and legal system.
“NPA and SAPS wasted no time in responding to the submission, demonstrating the gravity of the charges and of the fact that, if left unaddressed, such crimes could be committed again during the 2013 elections,” the statement said.
AIDS-Free World charged that during the 2008 presidential elections, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and members of his ruling ZANU-PF political party unleashed a ruthless campaign of violence against opposition party supporters in order to intimidate voters and secure the presidency.
Their political strategy allegedly featured the widespread gang rape and torture of women throughout the country.
Since the 2008 elections, AIDS-Free World and its Zimbabwean partners have worked to document the mass rape and to seek accountability for the crimes.
“Over the course of nine months, a legal team assembled by AIDS-Free World took testimony from women from all over the country, many of whom were raped in ZANU-PF 'base camps' in the days immediately preceding the June 2008 run-off election.
“The victims survived the rapes, but were left to cope with physical and psychological trauma,
abandonment, unwanted pregnancies, and the lingering terror that their attackers were among the 15 percent of adults in Zimbabwe infected with HIV,” the statement said.
“The timing of this investigation could not be more urgent. The country is again poised on the verge of a presidential election.Threats of violence against civil society and supporters of the
opposition parties have again been made,” the organisation said.
According to AIDS-Free World, 84 women survived the most brutal and personal of crimes and
emerged to tell their stories, for themselves and for the countless other victims all over Zimbabwe.
On 8 May, 2012, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the NPA and the SAPS had international criminal law obligations to investigate widespread torture that took place in Zimbabwe in 2008.
The case was brought by the Southern African Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, who documented the torture and filed the initial submission with the NPA. It is currently on appeal.