The affordable education loan option
Bloemfontein - The police can only investigate a person involved in an alleged crime when that person sets foot in the country, the Supreme Court of Appeal heard on Friday.
“If he is a foreigner, the crime is only committed by the time he is in South Africa,” said legal counsel for the national police commissioner, Andre Ferreira.
The court was hearing argument on an appeal against a decision that South Africa was obliged under international law to probe alleged atrocities by officials in Zimbabwe.
The lower court held the National Prosecuting Authority could prosecute the Zimbabweans concerned if they ever set foot in South Africa.
The officials are accused of masterminding “crimes against humanity” by instituting a state-sanctioned reign of terror in their country.
Ferreira admitted in debate that nothing stopped the police from starting some sort of investigation, but that would be decided against some requirements.
One of these would be whether there was a chance of a prosecution later on in South Africa.
However, Ferreira submitted that it would be wrong to spend resources on an investigation where there were no prospects of a prosecution.
“Because it would lead to nothing,” he submitted.
He submitted that only strict presence in South Africa was the trigger for an investigation and not an “anticipated presence” in South Africa as argued by the opposing side.
The original court action was brought by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwean Exiles Forum (ZEF).
They had asked the high court to review and set aside a decision by the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the police not to investigate Zimbabwean officials linked to the alleged torture in Zimbabwe.
Arguments in court were continuing.