SADC Tribunal judgments void: Minister
Sadc Tribunal judgments void: Ministers
Sunday, 15 May 2011 22:16
By Sydney Kawadza
JUSTICE ministers from Southern Africa have acknowledged that the Sadc Tribunal was improperly constituted and its decisions were null and void.
At a summit held in Namibia last August, Heads of State and Government resolved to suspend the tribunal pending the outcome of a review by the bloc's justice ministers and attorneys-general.
The summit tasked the ministers and AGs to investigate the tribunal's operations. The review followed concerns raised by Zimbabwe querying the legitimacy of the tribunal's rulings. The tribunal courted controversy when it passed judgments that contravened Zimbabwe's constitutional position on land reform.
Government made it clear it was not bound by the rulings, as the tribunal's constituting treaty had not been ratified by two-thirds of Sadc members as required.
Zimbabwe is one of 10 countries that have not ratified the protocol that seeks to give the tribunal force.
The ministers, who met in Swakopmund, Namibia, last month ahead of the Heads of State and Government meeting later this month, also agreed that the legal instruments under which the tribunal was constituted had serious shortcomings.
The ministers - who were meeting together with the respective Sadc countries' attorneys-general - have recommended that the leaders negotiate the instruments to issues of the tribunal's jurisdiction.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ministers agreed that the protocols setting up the tribunal had not been ratified by two-thirds of the Sadc countries.
As currently constituted, the tribunal - which was ratified by only five of Sadc's 15 members - was a legal nullity.
To be operational, it needs ratification by 10 member states.
"The treaty provided for a Sadc tribunal to be operational through protocols that would set up its jurisdiction and mandates. The protocols were negotiated in 2000 and all the countries signed. They however, waited for two-thirds of the countries to ratify the protocols," he said.
Two countries only ratified the protocols then while three more countries have appended their signatures.
The Sadc secretariat, however, proposed amendments to the treaty with the provision that the protocol would be an integral part of the treaty.
"All the Sadc countries signed for these changes but no country ratified it and the secretariat put it into force and set up the Tribunal. The treaty however, provides that any amendments be ratified by a two-thirds majority, but no ratification of the protocol was made," he said.