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Stymied In Zimbabwean Courts, White Farmers Seek Regional Recourse

Having exhausted their legal options in Zimbabwe, former white commercial farmers who lost property to land redistribution are seeking recourse at a regional level.

A tribunal of the Southern African Development Community is set to hear one such case next Tuesday in Windhoek, the Namibian capital. The 10-judge regional court was created in 2000 to resolve conflicts arising from treaties.

Many white Zimbabwean farmers have challenged the constitutionality of the seizure of their land beginning in 2000, but with little success. Eleven farmers recently went on trial for failing to vacate farms by a date set by Harare, and the supreme court ruled recently that the government could take over equipment owned by the farmers.

Advocate Jeremy Gauntlett, representing white farmer William Michael Campbell in the tribunal, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his client will ask the SADC court to order a halt to state action, pending a fair trial.

Cape Town-based political analyst Glenn Mpani said the case raises a thorny issue for the tribunal as land reform concerns a number of countries in the region, adding that while the farmers are right to turn to the SADC court, their chances are slim.

Despite the pessimism on the SADC tribunal outcome, some Dutch farmers who lost properties to Zimbabwean land reform recently prevailed in a French court that found the government had violated their rights. Zimbabwean Minister Didymus Mutasa, in charge of land reform, said the government will compensate them when it can.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...