Report on renditions with NPA

SEVERAL senior Hawks officials have been implicated in the CIA-style rendition of Zimbabwean dissidents. A two-year investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, overseen by the Civilian Police Secretariat, follows the disappearance of at least 16 Zimbabweans from South Africa four years ago.

A detailed report is with the National Prosecuting Authority, which must decide whether to charge the officials with murder, assault and obstruction of justice.

David Barritt, a special adviser to and acting spokesman for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, has confirmed that the investigative directorate ended its investigation last month.

"[The directorate's] executive director, Robert McBride, has said that, after a full investigation, the organisation has made several recommendations to the NPA. They are waiting for a response."

Barritt would not detail the recommendations until the NPA had made its decision. The NPA would not comment last night.

It has been learnt, however, that at least eight members of the Hawks' tactical operational management services in Pretoria and Johannesburg are suspected of being responsible for the renditions. The eight are alleged to have been operating on orders from high-ranking officers.

A source close to the suspects said a number of policemen had given sworn statements, several of them implicating senior officers.

Statements had been taken from these senior officers.

The disappearances of the Zimbabweans occurred between 2010 and 2011, when members of the Gauteng Hawks assisted the notorious Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation. The renditions were allegedly made under the pretext that the men repatriated were wanted for questioning in connection with armed robberies and the murder of Zimbabwean police officers. Several of those spirited to Zimbabwe were allegedly tortured, and others were murdered or simply disappeared.

Among those who disappeared from South Africa and were either tortured or murdered are:

ýGift Nhidza, a former Movement for Democratic Change organiser;

ýNhidza's wife, who was allegedly tortured by Zimbabwean police seeking information on her husband's whereabouts; and

ýWitness Ndeya, allegedly killed with two friends by Zimbabwean police shortly after their return to that country.

A senior South African police official said last night that though there was strong evidence against those implicated, it was doubtful they would be prosecuted. "These guys are untouchable ... they do as they want, when they want," he said.

A source close to the NPA side of the investigation said prosecutors had issued special guidance to investigators to ensure the case was strong enough to go to court. "It was a massive investigation. It took careful planning to get where we are today."

The source, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak about the investigation, said damning statements had been obtained.

Zimbabwe Exiles Forum director Gabriel Shumba said the group had given information in connection with several of the cases. "We have, however, not been notified of the developments ... It adds to our concerns about what the investigation really revealed about those involved."

Shumba said he believed the 16 rendition cases the forum knew of were only the tip of the iceberg. "We have credible information on six cases, with information from two of those who were taken back but escaped and returned with evidence of torture." - Graeme Hosken