Saturday, November 27, 2010

(HERALD) Supreme Court throws out white farmers’ application

Supreme Court throws out white farmers’ application
By Daniel Nemukuyu

THE Supreme Court has dismissed an application by white former commercial farmers who were challenging the constitutionality of Government’s compulsory acquisition of land under the land reform programme.

Nine members of the Commercial Farmers’ Union filed the application in which they argued they were being discriminated against on the basis of race. They said only white farmers were being prosecuted on land issues and were not being considered in the land redistribution programme.

It was argued that only land owned by whites was compulsorily acquired and they wanted leave to stay on the farms.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku dismissed the application with costs saying the applicants had failed to prove or cite any black farmers who were in breach of the same law.

"They cannot be heard to complain that only white commercial farmers are being prosecuted.

"What is the Attorney-General supposed to do if it is only white farmers who are breaking the law?

"It is an abuse of court process for the applicants to approach this court seeking an interdict against the AG in these circumstances," said the Chief Justice.

He said the farmers should simply obey the law by vacating acquired land.

"If they have any legal claim to the acquired land, or arising from the acquired land, they can launch proceedings after vacating the acquired land as is required by law.

"I, therefore, find that the applicants’ complaint has no substance," he said.

The court ruled that the Minister of Lands was the acquiring authority and had the legal power to issue permits and other relevant documents.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku emphasised that issuance of an offer letter, permit or lease was a clear expression by the acquiring authority of the decision as to who should possess or occupy the land.

The Chief Justice reiterated that the Supreme Court’s decision was final and was not bound or influenced by the Sadc Tribunal.

The issue of it being bound by the Sadc Tribunal or any other courts defeated the idea of it being the country’s highest court, he noted.

Although inadequate proof was proffered in court to buttress claims that the farmers’ movable equipment was acquired, the Chief Justice ruled that the seizure of such equipment — if it did occur — was unlawful and contrary to the Acquisition of Farm Equipment or Material Act.

The Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, the Justice Minister, the Police Commissioner-General, the Auditor-General, the Finance Minister, the AG and the chairman of the compensation committee were cited as respondents.

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