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Former SADC Tribunal President Challenges SADC Over Zimbabwe Land Seizures Ruling

  • Benedict Nhlapho
  • Tatenda Gumbo

The former judge president of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, Ariranga Pillay, said SADC's bid to replace the Tribunal is illegal and undermines the principles of human rights and access to justice

The former judge president of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal has challenged SADC to prove a Tribunal judgment against Zimbabwe on farm seizures was biased, calling for its immediate implementation if an appeals court upholds it.

Addressing judges, lawyers, advocates and civil rights activists in a forum organized by Freedom Under Law, Justice Ariranga Pillay expressed his concern at SADC's failure in repeated summits to take action against Zimbabwe for disregarding the Tribunal’s 2008 ruling that 78 white farmers were wrongly dispossessed of their land.

Pillay is challenging the regional organization to create an appeals wing of the Tribunal to see if a different conclusion will be reached in the cases involving Zimbabwe. Harare has rejected the authority of the Tribunal, leading to a SADC review of its functions.

SADC leaders in May declared a “moratorium” on Tribunal decisions and said that SADC would create a new tribunal with a different jurisdiction in 2012. The decision effectively suspended Tribunal operations though not dissolving the court as some have described the move. But justices are not being reappointed as their terms expire.

Pillay said SADC's move to replace the Tribunal is illegal and undermines the principles of human rights and access to justice. He said that whether the original tribunal has been suspended or dissolved, it is now defunct, as it cannot hear new cases

The latest SADC resolutions on the Tribunal have raised many tangled legal questions, but a South African group supporting the claims of three white Zimbabwean legal farmers under the 2008 ruling said Wednesday that the suspension of operations of the Windhoek court has little bearing where its own efforts are concerned.

Afriforum noted that despite Harare’s continued disregard of the Tribunal ruling, past rulings of the Windhoek court stand and the 2008 ruling has been validated by South Africa’s High Court, which has allowed the three farmers, among them the late Mike Campbell, to seize Zimbabwean government property in South Africa.

The Pretoria high court has dismissed appeals by Harare to reverse those seizures.

Afriforum Deputy Chief Executive Officer Ernst Roets told reporter Tatenda Gumbo that if Zimbabwe wants to reverse the 2008 ruling it must follow the proper legal channels.

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