Zimbabwe’s justice minister yesterday denounced a South African court ruling that ordered an investigation of officials accused of torturing opponents of President Robert Mugabe.
“The ruling brings the South African justice system into disrepute. No specifics have been identified, because they should have laid a blow by blow account of what crime has been committed,” Patrick Chinamasa told state media.
In a landmark judgement, a South African high court on Tuesday ruled that authorities in South Africa can probe and prosecute not only high-level crimes committed in neighbouring Zimbabwe, but anywhere else in the world.
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.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is now the prime minister in a power-sharing government with Mugabe. His party hailed the decision.
“Torture is a barbaric instrument of dealing with issues of politics,” said spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
“For that reason it remains our wish that all people of Zimbabwe with injured hearts and troubled minds are brought to restorative and rehabilitative, as opposed to retributive, justice.
“The pains of the past will always haunt the stability of the future. It is vitally important that things are brought to the table instead of being swept under the carpet.”
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum filed the case in Pretoria seeking to force prosecutors to open an investigation, citing South Africa’s obligations to the International Criminal Court.
The two groups want South Africa to arrest and prosecute 17 Zimbabweans accused of torture in 2007 if they enter the country for holiday, shopping or seeking medical treatment.
Land leasing is not forcing farmers to relocate, claims Ethiopian govt
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi yesterday denied that private investment in the country’s arable land is forcibly relocating farmers and causing environmental damage.
“When we allocate land, we make sure that environment concerns are properly addressed, interest of local populations are properly taken care of and land use is efficient and effective,” Meles said, speaking at the opening of the Ethiopian Investment Forum.
Ethiopia has leased 300,000 hectares of arable land to private investors in the last five years. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off fertile land to make way for investors, but authorities maintain relocation is voluntary.
The government has undertaken an ambitious resettlement programme, relocating the country’s pastoralists and small-scale farmers to organized villages.
Human Rights Watch said 70,000 people have been relocated and reported that government plans to resettle 1.5mn people by 2013.
However, Meles said that the resettlement programme is concentrated in areas that have not been targeted for private sector leasing.
“The bulk of the resettlement program is happening on the opposite end of where the private sector investment in agriculture is happening,” he said.
The Ethiopian Investment Forum is being held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Addis Ababa.
Over 700 people are expected to attend the WEF conference, including eight African leaders, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
Meles said private investment is key to Ethiopia’s development and essential if the country is to reach its target of 15% economic growth by 2015. The International Monetary Fund pegs Ethiopia’s growth at 8%, though government maintains it is 11%.
“We expect the private sector to play a vital role in the implementation of these projects,” he said, adding that he welcomed increased agricultural investment.
The WEF conference will focus on boosting public-private investment and fostering economic diversity in order to kick start development across Africa.