Mugabe’s party facing SA probe

JOHANNESBURG– In a ground-breaking move, South African prosecutors will investigate President Robert Mugabe’s political party for crimes against humanity for an alleged campaign of mass rapes in Zimbabwe’s last election.
U.S. actor Matt Damon meets Sharon Ruzvid, 18, a Zimbabwean refugee who was raped whilst pregnant, during his visit to the South African border town of Musina in Zimbabwe Tuesday, Marc....
U.S. actor Matt Damon meets Sharon Ruzvid, 18, a Zimbabwean refugee who was raped whilst pregnant, during his visit to the South African border town of Musina in Zimbabwe Tuesday, Marc....

JOHANNESBURG– In a ground-breaking move, South African prosecutors will investigate President Robert Mugabe’s political party for crimes against humanity for an alleged campaign of mass rapes in Zimbabwe’s last election.

The decision, following a request by Canadian activist Stephen Lewis and others, marks the first time an African government has used domestic laws to investigate another African country under the emerging doctrine of “universal jurisdiction.”

It’s also believed to be the first time that authorities have invoked “universal jurisdiction” in a rape investigation – a sign of the growing resistance to the use of rape as an organized political tactic.

Mr. Lewis and his organisation, AIDS-Free World, plan to announce the South African decision at a press conference in Johannesburg this week.

Its legal teams have gathered hundreds of hours of testimony from 84 rape survivors in Zimbabwe who identified more than 200 perpetrators and orchestrators in the alleged rape campaign.

In an earlier report, AIDS-Free World concluded that thousands of opposition supporters were raped by members of the ruling ZANU-PF party “as a tool of terror and intimidation” during the 2008 election campaign.

Many of the rapists wore the party’s shirts, sang its songs, chanted its slogans, or made political statements showing they were party members, it said. “Each woman, on average, was raped five times, although these numbers may be underestimated because many women fell unconscious during the violent rapes and therefore lost count of the number of rapists and rapes at some point.”

Many victims were taken to the party’s “base camps” used for rape and torture, which still exist today and could be reactivated in elections this year, AIDS-Free World said.

With Zimbabwe scheduled to hold a constitutional referendum and national election over the next few months, the decision by South Africa’s prosecutors to investigate the rapes could be crucial in deterring further attacks and ending the impunity of Mr. Mugabe’s supporters, Mr. Lewis said.

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