Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

SADC land ruling undermined by Zim constitution

SADC land ruling undermined by Zim constitution

By Alex Bell
24 July 2012

Zimbabwe’s commitment to the rule of law is facing serious questions since 
the release of the country’s new draft constitution, which contains clauses 
that undermine a key ruling by the regional human rights court.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruled in 2008 
that Robert Mugabe’s land grab campaign was unlawful, in a landmark court 
case that upheld the right of the Zimbabwe’s battered farming community to 
seek redress.

The ruling slammed the land seizures as ‘inherently discriminatory’ and 
against the standards and values of the SADC Treaty that Zimbabwe, as a 
signatory to the Treaty, is party to.

The then ZANU PF government was ordered to compensate farmers in a ruling 
that was meant to be internationally binding. The ruling was never honoured 
and instead, the court was suspended by SADC leaders for a ‘review’. The 
SADC leaders were criticised for appearing to side with Mugabe over human 
rights and the rule of the law.

Justice is now set to be further delayed with Zimbabwe’s draft constitution 
actively undermining the still suspended Tribunal’s ruling, by stating that 
farmers will not be compensated and the government has no obligation to do 
so. The draft toes the ZANU PF line that Britain is responsible for 
compensating the farmers, because the land grab was “addressing the 
imbalance of the colonial era.”

The charter also states that no one can challenge this refusal to pay 
compensation in the country’s courts, while the state takeover of land 
cannot be legally challenged on the grounds of ‘discrimination’. This kind 
of takeover has been legalised, with the draft detailing that the government 
can acquire land and take over title deeds with only a notice in the 
Government Gazette serving as warning.

Former Chegutu farmer Ben Freeth, who led the legal challenge against Mugabe 
at the Tribunal in 2008, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the land 
clauses are “very worrying.”

“This is a harsh and draconian thing to write into the constitution and it 
makes it even more simple for the state to seize the properties that are 
left in Zimbabwe, Freeth said.

He added: “What is most concerning for me is the discriminatory basis that 
this is being done on, which is a clear indication of where we are in the 
country right now. Discrimination has essentially been written into the 
constitution and signed by the democratic side of our government, the MDC.”

Freeth said the land clauses not only “endorse theft,” but also “go against 
the principles of democracy that SADC is meant to adhere to.”

“I believe that we are now at crunch time in terms of the Zimbabwe’s future. 
And it is yet to be determined if this is a future that includes respect of 
property and human rights and the rule of law,” Freeth said. 



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