NON-Governmental Organisations in South Africa yesterday accused President Jacob Zumaâ€™s office of covering up the existence of a damning report by retired generals about the role of the military in post-election violence in Zimbabwe last year.
Zumaâ€™s office has rejected requests to release the document, saying it did not exist as the generals commissioned by former president Thabo Mbeki to investigate abuses never reported to him in writing.
Piers Pigou, the director of the SA History Archives (Saha), said he believed the presidency was lying.
â€œIt makes no sense that these people would provide Mbeki with only oral testimony. We think the presidency is setting itself up to be questioned. It is very sad,â€ Pigou said.
Pigou said though violence and fear levels in Zimbabwe had since decreased, light should be shed on last yearâ€™s rein of terror to prompt a transformation of the military and prevent future abuses.
Human rights groups accused President Robert Mugabe of unleashing a systematic campaign of violence on opposition supporters after his Zanu-PF lost control of parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change in elections in March 2008.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claimed at least 200 of his supporters were killed.
Mbeki, Sadcâ€™s mediator in Zimbabwe, in May last year tasked six retired generals to assess the extent of the armyâ€™s involvement in the political crisis.
The generals conducted fact-finding missions in May and June but Mbeki never released their findings. Neither did his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Saha, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, and the SA Centre for Survivors of Torture as well as the Democratic Alliance, have invoked the Promotion of Access to Information Act to force Zuma to release the document.
But Pigou said Frank Chikane, the director-general in the presidency under Mbeki, and Trevor Fowler, who currently holds the post, produced affidavits saying no report or supporting documentation exits and the generals reported only orally to Mbeki.
The NGOs insist however that the generals produced a report that painted a â€œdevastatingâ€ picture of state-sponsored violence that shifted Mbekiâ€™s perceptions on the situation in Zimbabwe.
â€œThe report is believed to have been hard-hitting and instrumental in the evolution of subsequent negotiations leading to the September Global Political Agreementâ€ on power sharing between Zanu PF and the MDC, they said in a statement.
The DAâ€™s parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said yesterday he has had no formal reply to his application but would find it â€œvery difficult to believe and even unacceptableâ€ that the generals had not produced a written report.
Trollip said he had been told by a human rights activist interviewed by the generals that they handed Mbeki a thorough and â€œhard-hittingâ€ report on state-sponsored violence.
The NGOs said Zuma should send the generals back to probe reports of continued intimidation and harassment by Zimbabwean security and intelligence forces intended to undermine the countryâ€™s fragile unity government formed in February. â€” Sapa.