CL/175/11(a)-R.2- 11 -
Geneva, 1st October 2004
The authorities expressed the view that the situation in Zimbabwe was being deliberately distorted, to the extent of certain events being staged to discredit the country. Minister Chinamasa stated in this respect that the British Ambassador had staged farm invasions of which pictures were taken by plane. This stopped when the authorities warned him that the plane would be shot down. The Minister of Foreign Affairs referred to a BBC report on youth training camps and torture7 (see section D.7) which, according to him, was a fake as South African actors, who could easily be recognised because of their accent, had been taken to perform in the film. This was the image presented to the world and explained why Zimbabwe suffered from a bad reputation. However, the situation in the country was not worse than in South Africa, India or Botswana.
The Commissioner of Police stated that the MDC was distorting events, misrepresenting facts and telling lies. He mentioned in this respect the attribution, by the MDC, of the death of Mr. Mpala to the attack on him by ZANU-PF when in fact he had died of meningitis (the delegation was given a copy of his death certificate), the false story of a women, an MDC supporter, who allegedly had been beheaded by militia8, and the allegation that a statutory instrument on unbailable offences was targeting MDC members when in fact it addressed economic crimes.
As regards this last point, the Commissioner provided to the delegation an article of 18 February 2004, published on the Internet ZRNEWS, about a new presidential decree, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Regulations, 2004, Statutory Instrument N° 37, amending the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. Under the Decree, effective from mid-February 2004, an individual charged with corruption, money laundering and externalisation of foreign currency may be detained for an effective one month without applying for bail, rather than the 48-hour period stipulated by law. According to the Commissioner, the MDC, through its Shadow Justice Minister, David Coltart, falsely stated in the article that (a) the decree enabled police to detain political opponents for up to a month without legal process on charges of “subversion”, (b) that it applied to a wide range of offences under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), including attempting to coerce the government by means of boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience or resistance to the law. He stressed that the Decree was only applicable to economic crimes. Likewise, when asked about the 28-day remand period, Minister Chinamasa stated that the Decree applied to economic crimes only. In fact, the Government had been obliged to take action because of the bad economic situation and the foreign currency dealings. These crimes required more than two or three days’ investigation and bailing out suspects would make it possible for them to escape and repeat the crime. A balance had therefore to be struck between individual and collective interests.
As to the applicability of the Decree/Regulations to the political opposition, it should be noted that section 2 of the Regulations make them applicable to offences referred to in paragraph 10 of the Third Schedule to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. That paragraph applies to offences under POSA, namely those described in its sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Section 5 concerns “subverting constitutional government”, a crime of which many of the MPs concerned were charged.
6.Information provided on certain laws, in particular the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), on legal provisions and practice regarding arrest, detention and investigation and action taken in the case of allegations of torture and ill-treatment
It should be noted at the outset that the authorities insisted that Zimbabwe was governed by the rule of law. The Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that, while he was unaware of who was right and who was wrong in the cases in question, it was important that courts adjudicate these cases and that the presumption of innocence was respected. He said that the opposition had won more cases in court than the Government which was in fact losing most of the cases.
7 On 29 February 2004, BBC broadcast a documentary on youth training camps in Zimbabwe which, according to the documentary, were set up to keep President Mugabe in power. Former recruits claimed in it that they were raped or taught how to torture in a bid to intimidate the opposition.
8 Andrew Meldrum, Harare correspondent for the London Guardian, was charged under AIPPA for publishing “falsehoods” when he quoted a story in the Daily News (now banned under AIPPA) saying that the militia had beheaded an opposition member. Meldrum was acquitted in court and subsequently issued a deportation order by the Department of Immigration. The story proved to be false and the newspaper presented its apologies to the Government.