Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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SADC in bid to revive old tribunal

SADC in bid to revive old tribunal

August 11 2012 at 03:40pm
By Paul Fauvet

Maputo – Justice ministers of the Southern African Development Community 
(SADC), meeting in Maputo, are overwhelmingly in favour of reactivating the 
SADC Tribunal, which was suspended in 2010.

Spokesperson Pedro Nhatitima (head of the Mozambican Legal Aid Institute), 
said yesterday the great majority of SADC member states “recognise the need 
to revive the tribunal as soon as possible”.

Zimbabwe was the only member to object to the SADC tribunal.

For, according to Nhatitima, the majority of the ministers recognised that 
the tribunal “has legal existence” – that is, it was properly constituted 
and had legitimate jurisdiction.

The suspension of the tribunal followed the Zimbabwean government’s refusal 
to implement a tribunal ruling, in favour of several dozen white commercial 
farmers, which found that parts of the “fast track” land reform were 

Nhatitima explained that the justification for non-compliance with the 
tribunal ruling was that the government of President Robert Mugabe denied 
that the court had “legal existence” because the SADC protocol on the 
tribunal had not been ratified.

But the other member states hold that ratification of the protocol is quite 
unnecessary, because the tribunal was incorporated into the SADC Treaty of 
1992. The treaty states that rulings by the tribunal are “final and binding”.

Acceptance of the treaty is a requirement for membership of SADC, and in 
2001 the article about the tribunal was quite uncontroversial.

“SADC needs a tribunal. It makes no sense for a country to be a party to the 
treaty but not to the tribunal,” Nhatitima pointed out.

He said the ministers of justice were proposing that the heads of state 
approve a new protocol on the tribunal. But cases that were pending when the 
tribunal was suspended will be heard under the old protocol, and only new 
cases would be heard under the new one.

Zimbabwe had complained that the land reform was a matter of state 
sovereignty and therefore outside the jurisdiction of international courts. 
So the ministers are proposing that in a new protocol, it will be stated 
that citizens may only appeal to the SADC Tribunal once they have exhausted 
all national avenues for redress.

Nhatitima admitted that in fact this was already the case, “but it shall be 
made explicit”.

But what could be done, if Zimbabwe, or any other member state, defied a 
ruling from the tribunal? Nhatitima said that was something the annual heads 
of state summit would have to decide. In principle, the summit could decree 
sanctions against a member which disobeyed the tribunal.

Saturday Star 


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