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S. Africa Prosecutors Say Police Probing Zimbabwe Election Rapes

South African police are investigating accusations by 84 women who say they were raped in the lead-up to Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Makhosini Nkosi said.

Detectives “are busy with the assessment process,” and are yet to decide whether full investigations will be carried out, he said today in a phone interview from Pretoria, the capital. New York-based AIDS-Free World lodged documents detailing “widespread sexual offenses” committed before the 2008 ballot, Nkosi said in a separate e-mailed statement.

“Messages coming from the media representatives of the National Prosecuting Authority and the police are confusing and haven’t been sent to us,” Shonali Shome, AIDS-Free World’s legal and gender adviser, told reporters today in Johannesburg. “We have communication from the NPA saying the inquiry has been opened and an investigation number issued.”

The group lodged affidavits with the NPA from 84 women raped by supporters and militia loyal to President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party. Many of the women said they were assaulted for supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Shome said. About 200 perpetrators have been identified, she said.

Retributive Rapes

The MDC won parliamentary elections that year while the Southern African Development Community nullified the results of a runoff presidential ballot after determining that escalating violence against primarily opposition backers had marred the contest’s credibility.

The 15-nation body brokered a power-sharing agreement that is expected to culminate with a national election this year if Zimbabweans approve a new constitution, agreed on by the rival parties, at a March 16 referendum.

South Africa is able to prosecute foreign citizens because it is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the Hague-based International Criminal Court, Shome said. She wasn’t able to say how South African police or courts would investigate or try foreign citizens.

Zanu-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo didn’t answer three calls to his mobile phone or office today.

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