PRESS STATEMENT – Renditions from South Africa
17 November 2011
The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum is extremely concerned by the recent reports of “renditions” and or “possible renditions” from South Africa to Zimbabwe. This follows various reports that senior officials in the Hawks and the South African Police Service are conducting illegal “renditions” with their Zimbabwean counterparts by arresting “suspects” and illegally sending them across the Beitbridge border to be murdered. The kidnapping and transfer of refugees from one country to another run contrary to the South African Immigration Act, and a further breach to the government’s moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe. It is also a violation of a fundamental principle of public international law, the principle of non refoulment and contrary to the UN Convention against Torture, which South Africa ratified in 1998.
There have been explosive intelligence reports allegedly in the possession of Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa listing at least three deaths. They reportedly detail a “renditions” operation led by officers reporting to Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros. More cases have been surfacing in which the Hawks and members of the SA National Defence Force were accused of arresting people and handing them over to Zimbabwean police, who either murder or torture them.
In one case, Gift Nhidza, a former organiser of the Movement for Democratic Change detailed how he was arrested by members of the SANDF, who then handed him over to Zimbabwean police where he was then tortured in front of villagers. While they were torturing him they reportedly said that was how a sell out and a terrorist is treated. Gift’s wife was four months pregnant. According to Gift, his tormentors said they wanted to skin her alive because there was a sell out in her womb. Gift said after begging for mercy, they kicked her in the belly, and she miscarried. He has since fled back to South Africa.
Elsewhere, Witness Ndeya, who was suspected of shooting a police officer before fleeing to South Africa was arrested and reportedly “renditioned” by the Hawks. Witness was then murdered, apparently by Zimbabwean police. A few days later, Zimbabwean police told the family that he was killed by other police officers. Ndeya's death certificate confirmed he died at Hippo Valley Farm in Bulawayo on November 20, with the cause of death listed as multiple gunshot wounds. South African authorities insist Ndeya and his companions were all arrested as illegal immigrants and were deported.
Reports in the media indicate that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe is demanding answers on the Hawks’ conduct on these illegal “renditions” of people from South Africa to Zimbabwe. Radebe said that the renditions fly in the face of the South African Constitution and its values. He further rightly observed that the rendition claims were very worrying, especially considering that the allegations were levelled not only against organs of the state, but one that is responsible for law enforcement and security.
The Hawks, South Africa's priority crimes unit and the police have denied being part of this deadly deal with its Zimbabwean counterparts, which results in the murder of 'suspects' sent across the border. The Hawks however claim in their defence that they hand over illegal immigrants to immigration authorities at Beitbridge. They further submit that they do not have a mandate to make a follow up on deported people. The accused organisations claim that at no point did they simply hand over people to authorities without an immigration official present as that would constitute rendition. ZEF has it on authority from many Zimbabweans, some of whom have been deported, that the immigration procedure is in many instances flouted as Home Affairs is in many instances not involved when people are arrested and deported from the border.
The deportation procedure has been clearly laid out in a directive from South Africa's Home Affairs department, one that was quietly circulated last month. The directive effectively ended the moratorium on Zimbabwean deportations in place since 2009 and clearly states that deportations can only be conducted after a thorough verification check to establish whether or not the deportees have a pending application to reside legally in South Africa. Deportees must be interviewed and the arresting official should indicate in a statement that the above procedure was followed and ensure that the information given by the suspect was verified. Instead the documented deportees were arbitrarily rounded up and deported.
ZEF henceforth calls upon the South African government to launch a thorough investigation into the matter. These “renditions” fly in the face of the South African constitution and need to be addressed. They are highly immoral and illegal and are a violation of clearly established principles of customary international law. The Zimbabweans who are currently in exile having fled from political persecution should not be sent back to the very hands that they fled from. Under public international law, countries can not torture or send someone to a country that is likely to engage in torture. ZEF is also of the opinion that if surely these political refugees need to be sent home to face the music of their actions or “crimes”, then proper extradition procedures should be followed. It is not the duty of the Hawks or the Defence Forces to screen political refugees in this country; it is the duty of the Home Affairs Department that the Hawks is usurping when serious crimes cry out for its attention.
ZEF reiterates that it is ill-advised and premature to resume forcible returns to Zimbabwe as the political situation in that country remains precarious and fragile before the next elections. Instead of focusing on cyclical deportations, the organisation hopes that the South African government will assist the over 4 million in exile to reclaim their franchise and be able to vote from host countries. ZEF Executive Director, Gabriel Shumba submitted that "Once a free and democratic Zimbabwe has been realised, millions will be keen to go back to their motherland."
ZEF also calls upon the South African government to engage civil society in the investigations of the “renditions”.These political refugees have got human rights for which they need protection.ZEF will pull all its resources in identifying the survivors of “rendition victims” and bringing them forward to enlighten us on this unscrupulous operation. ZEF prays for the full co-operation of the South African government to bring the perpetrators to book and to bring an end to this inhumane and unconstitutional treatment of political refugees.
For more information contact:
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum
Exec Director and Human Rights Lawyer
Kutlwanong Democracy Centre
357 Visagie Street
Mobile: +27 72 6393 795
Tel: +27 12 322 6969
Fax: +27 12 320 8158
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