May 11, 2012 | GRAEME HOSKEN
The threat from the Johannesburg-based Zimbabwe Exile Forum was made a day after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told parliament that an investigation into several Hawks officers was nearing completion.
The Sunday Times published damning allegations in October that South African officials were cooperating with the Zimbabwean authorities in abducting Zimbabweans in South Africa, including former Movement for Democratic Change organiser Gift Nhadzi and his wife, who were tortured after he was repatriated.
Also said to have been sent back to Zimbabwe against his will was Witness Ndeya, who is alleged to have killed Zimbabwean police officers. He was returned to Zimbabwe along with two other citizens and murdered.
Mthethwa's announcement on Wednesday was made a day after the Pretoria High Court ruled that the South African authorities were obliged to arrest Zimbabwean officials linked to torture when they visited South Africa.
Zimbabwe Exile Forum chairman Gabriel Shumba said of the renditions yesterday: "This is a crime against humanity and includes assaults in which people have had parts of their bodies doused in diesel before being set alight. Despite complaints, nothing has been done. This is the first time we are hearing of this probe and we are afraid the allegations will be covered up.
"South Africa has ratified and domesticated the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and if investigations establish that South African police are involved they must be prosecuted," Shumba said.
He warned that failure to prosecute would lead to the forum taking the Hawks to The Hague for crimes against humanity .
Shumba said the forum had interviewed six Zimbabweans who had escaped from army or police bases in that country after being abducted and smuggled across the border and tortured.
He and a senior source within the Hawks alleged that such "renditions" were continuing unabated.
Shumba, who called for an independent commission of inquiry comprising Zimbabwean and South African civil society organisations, said there was an increase in the number of reports of intimidation by Zanu-PF supporters and Zimbabwe police agents operating in South Africa.
This has led to the forum receiving requests from Zimbabweans for help in leaving South Africa.
Shumba said the forum was currently processing 20 such requests and had already assisted two Zimbabweans to leave for the US and Canada.
"I have personally witnessed uniformed Zimbabwe police, alongside South African officers, searching and beating Zimbabweans in Musina. These assaults are widespread and flout international humanitarian law.
"The widespread allegations of disappearances, torture, beatings, killings and assistance provided to Zimbabwean law enforcers coming to this country to kidnap Zimbabweans is repugnant," Shumba said.
The Hawks source confirmed that a team of at least eight of the unit's members was still taking part in such operations.
"They are above the law. Completely untouchable. For their work, several have been promoted to senior ranks. They have links right to the top, including politicians and senior officers.
"Several, who are from the Hawks Tactical Operational Management Services, are known to be linked to the murders of at least six Zimbabweans abducted from across Gauteng, and others have been linked to the murders of South Africans, including fellow police officers," he said.
Mthethwa told parliament's police portfolio committee that the allegations had been noted and had been referred to Hawks boss Anwa Dramat.
"The Civilian Secretariat for Police is almost through with a preliminary report on the allegations, which suggests further action is required," he said.
When asked about the arrests, Mthethwa's spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said he did not want to pre-empt the inquiry's outcome.
"We will keep the public informed once the final investigation has been completed."
Mnisi confirmed that the South African authorities were working with their Zimbabwe counterparts and the justice cluster of state departments.
Justice Department spokesman Tlali Tlali declined to comment, saying it was a police matter.
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