'Ruling on Zim rights cases disgraces SA's justice system'

Zimbabwe’s Justice minister believes a human rights ruling in the high court disgraces SA’s justice system.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's Justice minister believes that Tuesday's court ruling allowing South African authorities to investigate Zimbabwean officials for alleged crimes against humanity, brings South Africa's justice system into disrepute.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Wednesday said the ruling formed part of efforts by ex-Rhodesians pushing for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

Chinamasa said Zimbabwean leaders had done nothing to bring them under the jurisdiction of international courts.

However, several government officials, including President Robert Mugabe, already face travel bans to many European countries.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled that the South African legal system should be used to investigate and prosecute Zimbabwean citizens suspected of torture and other crimes against humanity.

The ruling applies to Zimbabweans living in South Africa and could be extended to those with plans to visit the country.

The court's ruling could make it difficult for Zimbabwean officials to visit South Africa, as they could face prosecution.

South Africa is bound by its international legal responsibilities to investigate officials linked to acts of state-authorised torture, said Judge Hans Fabricius in his ruling.

Spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, Mthunzi Mhaga, told Reuters "We have noted the judgement. We will decide which legal avenues to explore."

No suspect names have been put forward, but NewsDay has speculated that the accused could include head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri.

Chinamasa told State media that the court should have given a "blow-by-blow" account of the crimes committed

High-ranking officials in Zimbabwe have avoided criminal investigations in their country, because its government controls state security and the court system.