Sovereignty does not mean freedom to kill one’s own people

via Sovereignty does not mean freedom to kill one’s own people | SW Radio Africa by Tanonoka Joseph Whande  02 December 2013

Last Wednesday, a full bench of five judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa upheld a landmark legal order which compels “the prosecuting authorities in South Africa to investigate crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe”.

This followed last year’s ruling in which the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa and the country’s police “must investigate state-sanctioned torture and other crimes against humanity committed by Zimbabwean officials in 2007”.

Last year, the SA government had argued that “undertaking such investigations would interfere with our political mediation efforts in Zimbabwe”.

But, last week, the Court invoked the Rome Statute, saying that the South African authorities had a duty to probe allegations of torture as required by the Rome Statute, to which South Africa is signatory.

The ruling made it clear that “the perpetrators of the crimes in Zimbabwe can be held accountable in South Africa regardless of where the offending acts took place”, adding that “such crimes strike ‘at the whole of humankind and impinge on the international conscience’”.

Describing the ruling as absurd, Zimbabwe’s Prosecutor-General, Johannes Tomana, who himself ignored prosecuting perpetrators of the murders when he was Attorney General, quickly pulled out of the bag the issue of sovereignty and spiced it up with subtle threats to South Africa. He said that this might spark a diplomatic incident between the two countries.

Said Tomana: “South Africa cannot arrest Zimbabwe military chiefs without violating the Geneva Conventions. They would be sparking a diplomatic row.”

He added that Zimbabwe has its own law enforcement systems and that it is important for nations to respect each other.

Since the arrival of Europeans and the subsequent establishment of colonies in Africa, South Africa has always carried a big brother mentality towards its northern neighbour, known by various names of Southern Rhodesia, Rhodesia and now known as Zimbabwe.

Because of South Africa’s obsession with the country, Zimbabwe’s march towards independence was delayed for years as apartheid South Africa supported successive white governments in Rhodesia in an effort to douse simmering nationalist aspirations in the country. Having wrestled South West Africa (now Namibia) from the League of Nations and with Botswana having been cowered into treading carefully, South Africa supported Portugal against rising nationalist independence passions in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique).

South Africa, therefore, managed to create a buffer between itself and the advancing so-called political winds of change that were clearly blowing south from Africa’s north. South Africa’s northern borders with its neighbors, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean all the way across southern Africa to the Indian Ocean, were secured by the presence of governments sympathetic to or supported by apartheid South Africa.

Successive white governments in South Africa stood by the successive white minority governments in the then Rhodesia. The two governments were close, very close.

South Africa, however, failed to stop independence from coming to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia and when South Africa itself finally became independent, the African rulers of that country stood by regional governments that were clearly abusing their own citizens.

South Africa is not speaking up. While I submit that South Africa has become an embarrassment in as far as its failure to encourage Africa’s democracies along is concerned, I also believe that the cosy relationships between South Africa and African leaders who are killing their citizens is a selfish, short-sighted policy that will not benefit South Africa in the long run.

South Africans went through so much pain during apartheid. They suffered for so long while the entire world watched. They, of all people, know what it is like to be abused by your own protectors. And here I sit, wondering who bewitched South Africa into supporting terror governments across Africa.

I am tempted to call Tomana an idiot and I will because he knows very well that the world cannot stand by when genocide is being committed.  South Africa, by its sheer geography, economic presence in Zimbabwe and Africa and our historical connections and political intercourse, has always been present in Zimbabwe.

But South Africa has always looked the other way when Robert Mugabe went on his murderous rampages.

South Africa saved Mugabe by its inactivity in 2008.

South Africa saved Mugabe during the lifetime of the unity government.

And were it not for South Africa, Tomana and Mugabe would not be sitting in the chairs they occupy in Zimbabwe today.

Tomana should be ashamed of betraying the principles of his profession and for failing to prosecute wrongdoers on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe.

He should not think that his ineptitude and failure to uphold the laws of Zimbabwe is what others dealing with law and order in other countries are doing.

The heart of the matter is that Tomana killed our people by not arresting and stopping our killers. He failed to protect our citizens and abused the law by applying it selectively.

Tomana’s siya-so type of law enforcement is a disgrace to his profession and a shame to the nation. Zimbabwe is part of the community of nations. There is nothing special about us except us and we are only special if we play by the rules.

We must maintain our decency no matter what.

We cannot continue to single ourselves out and opting out of international groupings that seek to assist us all in living peacefully among ourselves and among other nations.

There comes a time when we have to listen to others; a time to listen to those who have stood by us as friends. As a nation among others, there comes a time for us to take as we give.

Yes, we can refuse to be part of the Rome Statute; we can pull out of the Commonwealth; we can threaten to pull out of SADC and we can insult all people across the universe but we are still part of the community and we cannot run away from that.

The ruling in South Africa should be taken by people like Tomana as a reminder to what his responsibilities are. They have to serve the nation and protect the people. It is not politics; it is professionalism. And they all can do this while singing for their supper.

There is nothing more revolting than an official of the law coming out in support and in protection of law breakers. Enough of this nonsense.

Zimbabwe needs to take its rightful place among other nations and we cannot continue to have situations where our own officials behave like monkeys in a banana tree.

Tomana should be in the forefront of upholding the law. At least he should think of those who spent so much to send him to school. He should retrace his footsteps and ensure that all lawbreakers are prosecuted regardless of their positions in society and in government.

Zimbabwe must play its role in dealing with international crime. We must be among those who apprehend criminals, from car thieves, crooked police officers, wayward military personnel, genocidal dictators to terrorists.

Because one day we may find ourselves in a pit full of vipers and there won’t be anyone there to assist us.

South Africa must press ahead and carry out that investigation and Zimbabwe must promise to assist all the way and ensure that those found with blame be brought before a court of law and face the consequences.

Not a single Zimbabwean’s life must be lost to appease a politician. All crimes must be investigated and prosecuted. South Africa’s investigations are welcome; Tomana must thank the South Africans.

Sovereignty does not mean killing one’s own people without consequences.

I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Monday, December 2nd, 2013.


  • comment-avatar
    Peter tosh 10 years ago

    Tomana is a fool. I feel sorry for his parents. He thinks he is a God but be reminded that nothing bad and evil last for ever. Your conscience is dead Tomana just because you want to please murderers and rapists. Fire pon unnu bomboclaat.

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    bruce 10 years ago

    Tamoona has made a confession that military guys should not be prosecuted in SA, he is agreeing to the fact that military guys are guilty.

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    I think Tomana should also be one of those people being invesitigated for putting too many innocent people in prison.

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    Mthwakazi 10 years ago

    @T Whande, what about this?

    Had the ANC been in government in 1980 and took a very strong stand against the ZANU PF government, and even threatening to invade the country to protect the Mthwakazi citizens that were being butchered by the guckrawundie, what would you have said?

    I can bet my bottom dollar that, many who are now protesting against the ANC government’s percieved inaction against Mugabe and his government, would have been the first to claim sovereignity.

    In shorth Mr Whande, what I am saying to you is that Zimbabwe’s politics is all about double standards. Mugabe has survived this long because of the divisions in the Zimbabean society. There is no empathy of each other and no unity of purpose. Everyone feels it only when he is on the recieving end. This is what is happening to you now!!

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      Shona 10 years ago

      Learn to separate issues, you will notice Mr Whande has not said that he tolerated the Gukurahundi massacres either, in fact they were perpetrated by the very same elite he is criticizing. It is only a tribalistic mentality that seeks to classify all Shonas in that category, some of us were not happy about that either. And you are also not on the receiving end then and now?

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        Mthwakazi 10 years ago


        Who is classifying ALL SHONAS as Gukurawundi perpetrators? Where is that classification and please show me the word SHONA in my contribution above? Maybe I am blind, where is that word?

        I know the truth hurts, but its a fact that many people who are screaming loud about Mugabe’s crimes against humanity today are always on the ready to defend him when it comes to Gukurawundi!!!

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    Mdidi 10 years ago

    Amashona bakithi!

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      marasha 10 years ago

      people do not generalise this case what did the shona people contribute in gukuruhundi,this is a sensitive issue ,some of us our relatives died during the gukurahundi,its really a pity that even where i am working ,ndebele colleagues shun me because i am shona. iam an individual struggling to survive.does it mean that all shona people have a connection or a link with MUGABE.CHANGE YOUR MENALITY

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    Thank u Mr whande well said.Its only that Tomana and gangsters have sold their ears their hearts their minds for evil. money they have gone WILD