A CABINET minister has blasted a South African court ruling ordering the prosecution of Zimbbwean politicians for alleged rights abuses, dismissing it as part of an ex-Rhodesian campaign to force illegal regime change in the country.
A South African high court on Tuesday ordered that prosecutors in Pretoria investigate Zimbabwean officials accused of torturing opposition supporters five years ago.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum filed the case seeking to force prosecutors to open an investigation, citing South Africa's obligations to the International Criminal Court.
But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ruling was irrelevant and part of a campaign aimed at putting Zimbabwe under the spotlight ahead of the visit of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay to the country.
“These people are working in cahoots with the ex-Rhodies who brought a case against Government on the land issue,” he said.
“They use the same source of funding to push a vendetta by white former colonial masters to cast Zimbabwe in the worst light to the world.”
Chinamasa said there was no justification for the ruling which he claimed brought the South African justice system into disrepute.
“The ruling brings the South African justice system into disrepute,” he said.
“No specifics have been identified because they should have laid a blow to blow account of what crime has been committed.
“That the court made a ruling based on a generalised opinion is a sad moment for the justice system in South Africa.”
The case centres on Zimbabwean officials accused of state-sanctioned torture against scores of activists following a raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2007.
"If you look at the international trends and see how many people have been arrested, for example, over the Rwanda genocide, this judgement will send shivers across Zimbabwe," said Gabriel Shumba, a torture victim and leader of the Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa.
South African prosecutors had refused to investigate the allegations, citing among other things political concerns.
The case is likely to further complicate President Jacob Zuma’s task after President Robert Mugabe early this year threatened to reject South African leader as regional facilitator overseeing Zimbabwe’s political reforms.
But Judge Hans Fabricius said: "In my view it is clear when an investigation under the ICC Act is requested, and a reasonable basis exists for doing an investigation, political considerations or diplomatic initiatives are not relevant.”