Zim renditions scandal deepens as SA top cops implicated

via Zim renditions scandal deepens as SA top cops implicated | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Friday, October 18, 2013 

An ongoing investigation into the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean citizens from South Africa has sucked in the top leadership of that country’s crime-fighting units, as the scandal continues to deepen.

Several senior officials in the Hawks priority crime unit and the South African police were in 2011 accused of conducting the renditions, in partnership with Zimbabwean police. This has reportedly led to a number of Zimbabwean ‘suspects’ being arrested in South Africa and then sent across the border illegally, and killed. At least 15 people are said to have disappeared, and according to human rights groups, four of those disappeared were murdered by Zimbabwean police.

The allegations were originally made by South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, which reported in 2011 that South Africa’s Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, was sitting on explosive reports listing at least three deaths of Zimbabwean nationals. The deaths were allegedly as a result of a ‘renditions’ operation led by police and Hawks officers.

The Sunday Times said it had evidence that Zimbabwean national Witness Ndeya, who was suspected of shooting a policeman in his country, was “renditioned” by the Hawks and then murdered, apparently by Zimbabwean police. Ndeya was arrested, along with his nephew and two friends, for being “illegal immigrants” in November 2010. In a sworn statement by one of the four, Shepard Tshuma, they were all taken to the Beitbridge border by South African police and handed over to Zimbabwean officials who “told us that we are under arrest for the murder of police officers.”

Tshuma and Ndeya were detained at a Bulawayo police station before the former was released a week later. Tshuma said that a few days later the Zimbabwean police told the family “that Witness Ndeya was killed by other police officers.” Ndeya’s death certificate reportedly confirmed he died at Hippo Valley Farm in Bulawayo, with the cause of death listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.”

Hawks Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat and six others in the crime-fighting unit, including Gauteng Hawks boss Major-General Shadrack Sibiya and the Hawks’s Colonel Leslie ‘Cowboy’ Maluleke, were previously implicated in the illegal practice. But an internal investigation headed by Dramat cleared Sibiya, Maluleke and other Hawks officials of any wrongdoing. In a report last year to Police Minister Mthethwa, Dramat said Zimbabwean crime suspects in South Africa were arrested by South African police and extradited through formal court processes. He said that those in the country illegally and without arrest warrants in Zimbabwe were handed to home affairs for deportation.

But the Sunday Times reported this week that an arrest warrant for Dramat was imminent and that the Hawks boss was set to hand himself over to the police for interrogation. The newspaper reported that “internal police memos and a sworn statement by a senior border police official at Beitbridge in Limpopo allege that he (Dramat) facilitated the illegal deportations.”

The newspaper also said that a report containing these details was set to be presented to South African President Jacob Zuma, and “a decision will be made after this meeting whether to arrest him and six others, for their alleged role in the renditions.”

Gabriel Shumba, the head of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, which has previously threatened to seek international intervention if the renditions investigation did not amount to anything, said Friday that they “greatly anticipate” the report.

“It is unfortunate and disappointing that the investigation has taken so long, especially considering that it is a case that involves serious crimes of international law. If it takes too long, it gives the impression that people can act with impunity,” Shumba said.

Shumba also explained that there are possible, political implications hanging over the case, because of the allegations that the Zimbabwean police force, which is historically loyal to ZANU PF, was involved in seeking out ‘suspects’ across the border.

“On the side of those that have been implicated in these crimes, I really have very little doubt that there might have been some political motivation behind this. When these renditions commenced, most of the people being hunted down in South Africa were active MDC members,” Shumba explained, saying they have evidence supporting this claim.

Gauteng Hawks boss Sibiya meanwhile this week accused the South African police’s Crime Intelligence unit, involved in the rendition investigations, of a “dirty-tricks campaign.” Sibiya told the Mail & Guardian newspaper that there was a “deliberate campaign to smear him and Dramat to undermine their powerful roles in the Hawks.”

Sibiya claimed that the targeted of the Hawks was in retaliation for an investigation the unit is leading into suspended Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli, who was charged with corruption and murder. Mdluli is reportedly a close of ally of President Zuma’s