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Zimbabwe blamed for collapse of Sadc Tribunal

Zimbabwe blamed for collapse of Sadc Tribunal

August 28, 2012 in Politics

Ezulwini (Swaziland) — The Southern African Development Community Law 
Association (Sadcla) has blamed Zimbabwe for the collapse of the Sadc 
Tribunal following the regional grouping’s summit in Maputo, Mozambique 
recently.Report by Nevanji Madanhire

The summit extended the suspension of the Tribunal in place since 2008 when 
Zimbabwe refused to abide by its rulings. The Maputo summit also proposed 
that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction be limited only to interstate disputes.
Speaking at the official opening of the Sadcla annual general meeting here 
on Friday, outgoing president of the Regional Lawyers Association Thoba 
Poyo-Dlwati said the suspension of the Tribunal and the proposed narrowing 
of its mandate to only addressing interstate issues was “a clear indication 
that our leaders are concerned more with protecting their turf than with the 
rights of the citizens”.
“This is the clearest case in the region of the undermining of the rule of 
law and independence of the judiciary especially if we consider that the 
suspension of the Tribunal in the first place was motivated by Zimbabwe’s 
refusal to abide by the judgements of the Tribunal and respect the 
independence of the judiciary,” she said.

The suspension of the Tribunal was motivated by Zimbabwe’s refusal to abide 
by the judgements of the court when former white commercial farmers who had 
their land acquired and redistributed to blacks by the State without 
recourse took their case to the Sadc body which ruled in their favour.

The Zimbabwe government argued that the land reform programme was meant to 
redress historical imbalances and therefore could not be adjudicated over by 
the Tribunal. The government refused to abide by the ruling causing the 
suspension of one of Sadc’s most important agencies.
The law association distanced itself from the summit’s decision, describing 
the proposed new body as “sham”.

“The proposed nature of the Tribunal that hears only interstate disputes is 
unheard of in this day and age when other regions are fighting hard to 
involve citizens and ensure that the rights of citizens are protected,” 
Poyo-Dlwati said.

She said it was unlikely that the heads of state and government would take 
each other to the Tribunal, rendering the institution only a court in name 
and building as no cases would be heard there. She said the proposed 
Tribunal could therefore not be seen as a legitimate and effective 
“As lawyers, and I am sure many other citizens of Sadc, we therefore reject 
the proposed Tribunal and wish to state categorically that we will not be 
part of that sham institution.”

’Land reform was discriminatory’

The Tribunal ruled that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was 
unconstitutional since it discriminated against the white farmers on the 
grounds of race and therefore the farmers should have their properties 
restored to them.


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