Saturday, November 29, 2008

(NEWZIMBABWE) SADC tribunal rules 78 white farmers can keep Zimbabwe land

SADC tribunal rules 78 white farmers can keep Zimbabwe land
Posted to the web: 28/11/2008 14:16:23

A SOUTHERN African tribunal ruled Friday that 78 white Zimbabweans can keep their farms because Harare's land reform scheme discriminated against them.

Judge Luis Mondlane, president of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal, said Zimbabwe had violated the treaty governing the 15-nation regional bloc by trying to seize the white-owned farms.

President Robert Mugabe's government "is in breach of the SADC treaty with regards to discrimination," Mondlane said, in a ruling seen as a test of the new tribunal's influence.

"The 78 applicants have a clear legal title (for their farms) and were denied access to the judiciary locally," he said.

Three of the 78 farmers have already been forced from their land, and the court ruled that Zimbabwe had also violated the treaty by failing to pay them fair compensation, he said.

For the remaining 75 farmers, Mondlane ordered Zimbabwe's government "to take all measures to protect the possessions and ownership" of their land.

"No actions may be taken by insurgents and others to interfere with or disturb the peaceful activities of the remaining 75 applicants," he said.

The verdict is the first major ruling by the court since it first convened in April last year.

By treaty, the court's rulings are binding, but Zimbabwe did not immediately say if it would comply.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga, said the government did not yet have a formal response to the ruling, but warned the verdict could interfere in the country's controversial land reforms.

Eight years ago Zimbabwe began seizing white-owned farms to resettle them with landless blacks, but the chaotic programme was plagued by deadly violence and some farms ended up in the hands of cronies of President Robert Mugabe.

"The resettled farmers will be perplexed and alarmed that this ruling will interfere with the land reform," Zindoga said.

The group of white farmers was led by William Michael Campbell, who filed the case last December to seek court relief "from a continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation," according to court papers.

"I am overwhelmed," a tearful but joyful Campbell said minutes after the ruling, after exchanging hugs with fellow farmers and his lawyers.

"The judgement is historic, the end of a very long legal battle. I call on all SADC leaders to see to it that the rule of law is respected in SADC and that peace prevails in Zimbabwe and we all can farm," Campbell's son-in-law Ben Freeth told AFP.

Chris Jarrett, vice chairman of the Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance, said he hoped that Zimbabwe would respect the ruling.

"Today's ruling does not just stop here, it will affect the whole of the SADC region. It sends a precedent for the African continent," Jarrett said.

The SADC tribunal was created as part of a peer review mechanism within the organisation. It aims to ensure the objectives of SADC's founding treaty, including human rights and property rights, are upheld.

If it is respected, the ruling could influence land reforms other countries around southern Africa.

In Zimbabwe and many neighbouring countries, white settlers took most of the best farmland during colonial times. Now African nations face a dilemna in how to bring black farmers back onto the land without disrupting food production.

Zimbabwe gave much of its land to inexperienced farmers and provided them little support, causing an enormous drop in food production that critics say is at the root of current shortages. - AFP

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At 6:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

Is there a copy of the ruling available online. I am not able to find it. If you can post a copy or a link to the ruling it would be great.


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