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Sadc bows to Zim pressure on tribunal

Sadc bows to Zim pressure on tribunal

August 14th, 2014

 

SADC

RICHARD CHIDZA IN VICTORIA FALLS –

Regional socio-political and economic grouping Sadc has buckled under pressure from President Robert Mugabe’s government to come up with a tribunal based on a new protocol. A draft protocol on the tribunal would be tabled before the Sadc heads of state and government summit to kick-off in Victoria Falls this week.

Teodiso Uate, Sadc’s head of the legal affairs unit, told journalists in the resort town on Wednesday that the rulings made by the suspended tribunal would also come under review.

“It is common knowledge now that member-states suspended the Sadc Tribunal which was established by a protocol. Since then, a new draft protocol has been crafted and it would be put to the council of ministers as well as the Summit for ratification,” Uate said.

“Justice minister and Attorneys General have sat and made the draft in a process meant to resuscitate the tribunal.”

Last month, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said Mugabe would preside over the implementation of a new Sadc Tribunal Protocol.

“I can tell you that we will discuss the establishment of a new protocol on the Sadc Tribunal,” Mumbengegwi said.

“The Tribunal got into difficulties over the way it was constituted. We will also discuss the appointment of a deputy secretary-general responsible for finance at the summit.”

Human rights groups and non-governmental organisations have been pushing for the establishment of a regional court of justice following the disbandment of the Namibia-based Sadc Tribunal in October 2012 at the behest of Zimbabwe, following arguments it was not properly constituted.

The tribunal offered the last course of redress for individuals locked up in disputes with their governments and would have exhausted the justice system offered in their own countries, but still did not get satisfaction.

Zimbabwe, in particular, appeared regularly at the tribunal as former commercial white farmers, who lost their land under the country’s Land Redistribution Programme, sought redress in the form of compensation or getting the land back.

In 2013, Zimbabwe made a last ditch payment in a bid to abide by a 2008 tribunal ruling that the process of compulsory land acquisition without compensation was illegal.

Mugabe’s government at the time had refused to acknowledge the ruling until the suspension of the tribunal in 2010 and its disbandment two years later. His refusal to abide by the ruling forced former land owners and South African citizens Louis Fick, Mike Campbell and Richard Etheredge to seek legal recourse in South Africa.

In its original form, the suspended protocol “had wider mandate”, according to Uate.

“The old protocol had wider mandate and its difference with the draft that has been crafted is that the new mandate would be confined to inter-state disputes,” he said.

The move effectively means the new Tribunal, if ratified by the council of ministers and Summit, would not hear any cases regarding personal litigation against government by citizens within the region. Uate said he was not sure whether the draft protocol would be ratified during this year’s summit at which Mugabe is set to take over as chairperson of the regional grouping.

“It is an open question because I am not sure, it depends, but the draft is ready,” said Uate.

He said the council of ministers as well as the Summit proper would also have to make a determination on the outstanding cases as well as the rulings that have not been effected.

“Council and Summit would also have to make a pronouncement on the pending cases and the rulings that were made under the old protocol. They would give guidance on how Sadc, as a region, should address these issues,” he said.

As happened following problems with the Commonwealth, a club of former British colonies in the early part of the last decade, Zimbabwe pulled out of the Tribunal, challenging its legitimacy following the rulings.

 

Sadc council of ministers is expected to meet later this week and is likely to deliberate on the new protocol with an adoption highly likely.

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