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Zimbabwean Government Boycotts Regional Tribunal Hearing on Farm Seizures

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

The tribunal was Tuesday asked to propose a special SADC summit to look at ongoing seizures of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe under the controversial land reform program, which the applicants say are illegal

The Zimbabwean government on Tuesday boycotted a hearing in the Namibia-based tribunal of the Southern African Development Community at which an application was lodged by a group of white farmers seeking the suspension of Harare from the regional organization for ignoring a 2008 ruling by the SADC court.

The tribunal found the seizures of white-owned commercial farms discriminatory and illegal.

Despite the Harare government’s failure to send a representative to the session Tuesday, the SADC tribunal heard arguments from the applicants, among them the Commercial Farmers Union, the Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance and a number of individual farmers.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said last year that Harare did not recognize the tribunal because its establishment had not been ratified by the requisite two-thirds of the regional group’s members. A Zimbabwean High Court judge however, ruled subsequently that the tribunal had been properly constituted.

Chinamasa could not be reached for comment on the latest development.

The tribunal was Tuesday asked to propose a special SADC summit to look at ongoing seizures of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe under the controversial land reform program, which the applicants say are illegal.

The tribunal reserved judgment in the case, sources said.

But Zimbabwean farmer Ben Freeth, an applicant, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that he and his co-applicants were satisfied with the proceedings and hoped for a favorable judgment in a few days.

"The government decided not to attend, but the session went ahead and we presented our arguments. We hope judgment will be in our favor," Freeth said.

Bulawayo-based attorney Matshobana Ncube said the government’s failure to see to its representation at the hearing should lead to an automatic default judgment for the applicants.

Said Ncube: "If the Zimbabwean government was given notice to attend and defaulted, what it means is that the judges ordinarily are going to make a determination in favor of the farmers."

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