Crimes against Humanity

Talking to a senior diplomat the other day I was asked if the MDC (T) still supported the travel restrictions on Zanu PF leaders and the remaining sanctions on the financial sector and certain companies. My response was that in the GPA we agreed to seek their removal and had advocated this throughout. Now that the GPA is a dead letter, we felt that the remaining restrictions were not having any impact and were counterproductive in that they gave Zanu PF a fig leaf behind which they could hide. Further they aggravated our relations with other African States and therefore we felt that they no longer served any purpose and should be removed.

But the difficulty of that position is that Zanu PF has done nothing in the 15 years since the first imposition of restrictions to warrant such an action by the countries and organisations that imposed them in the first place. Now that Zanu PF has resumed full control of the State after yet another flawed electoral process that did not meet accepted benchmarks, the countries still wanting to see compliance with accepted standards of governance and human rights are reluctant to relinquish what they feel is their only way of applying pressure on the Party to behave.

My response to that point of view was to say, try another way of going about the operation which will have the same effect on the targeted individuals and organisations. For example, lift the travel ban and then state very clearly that any individual visiting their country and who, in their view had violated human rights or committed crimes against humanity, would be arrested and tried in the local Courts.

In that way every individual would have to make a calculated estimate of what information they had on them, what the legal and political implications were and what was likely to happen in a real Court of law. Believe me I know of over 2000 individuals in the leadership of Zanu PF and the State itself, who would be very nervous of stepping off a plane at New York or London, let alone the 140 or so individuals who are currently listed.

This would raise a further issue for civil society and human rights groups all over the world as to what criteria to apply to such arrest warrants. How wide do we cast the net?

In my view we could cast the net as wide as the infractions occur in a country like Zimbabwe. We could go right back to 1983 and Ghukurahundi, or we could reach back to Murambatsvina. In the first instance we would have rich pickings – it is already established in law, that this was genocide; a deliberate attempt to wipe out a tribal or ethnic group by means of physical violence, extra judicial killings on a large scale and deliberately withholding food supplies to whole communities for extended periods.

We can certainly identify the individuals that were directly responsible for this “moment of madness” as Mr. Mugabe called it, and we could also identify many hundreds of perpetrators on the ground. Very few of the 140 individuals on the present list of restrictions would escape attention.

Murambatsvina is already classified by the United Nations as a mass violation of human rights. 700 000 people were made homeless, 1,2 million were displaced and hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced from their urban homes. Tens of thousands died every month following these forced evictions in the middle of winter and we can identify the people responsible very easily.

Right now Murambatsvina mark 2 is under way and it would be even easier to identify those responsible starting with Chombo and his new deputy.

Then there are all those who have been directly involved on the political oppression of the MDC and its supporters since 1999. We have maintained careful records of these incidents and we have police reports, sworn affidavits, photographs, video, as well as recordings of statements and media reports, as well as many Court records of cases that have been brought to trial but never concluded. These records make gruesome reading and we have already had legal experts review the cases and give us their assessment of whether or not these would find traction in their Courts. They have indicated to us that many of the cases are absolutely water tight and would lead to conviction in a decent Court.

Then there are the not so easy things to assess. In 2008, 300 000 people died in Zimbabwe, 17 000 women died in childbirth, tens of thousands died of TB and Malaria – both diseases we thought were beaten. Thousands died of water borne disease, hundreds of thousands of children died of all sorts of preventable causes.

Hospitals were just large mass mortuaries, clinics non functional, public health systems, water and sanitation collapsed. Life expectancy fell precipitously from 60 years on average to 34 years. In a decade, life in Zimbabwe was returned to conditions last seen in Europe 400 years ago. Was this deliberate? Many of us think so. Was it just the collective result of years of stupidity and mismanagement? Perhaps; either way people were responsible and surely, they should be held accountable.

The reality is that Zanu PF had declared war on its own people and in the process they had destroyed agriculture, reduced two thirds of the population to absolute degradation and starvation and collapsed the economy, thrust 5 million people out into the diaspora and reduced employment by half.

In my personal view, any group of people responsible for such a state of affairs should be subject to global condemnation and isolation. They should be held accountable and when the population is virtually in a “national detention camp” and cannot fight back, it is the responsibility of other countries that enjoy responsible government and open democracy with freedom, to ensure that the people who wreck such havoc on a country and its people face judgment and condemnation. The UN system would be the best vehicle for such actions but is totally hopeless when it comes to such issues as demonstrated by the many times the UN General Assembly has saluted and applauded the leaders who have committed such mass crimes against their people.

But let’s not continue with the farce that “sanctions” explains the incompetence and brutality of the Mugabe regime. Let’s strip them of that fig leaf that they use to cover their shame and do something effective for once, something that would give their victims in Zimbabwe a sense of justice and that somewhere, out there, people do really care.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 9th November 2013