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Zimbabwe Court Dismisses Equipment-Seizure Appeal By White Farmers

Zimbabwe's former commercial white farmers were dealt yet another blow Monday as the country's supreme court ruled that the government acted within its constitutional rights in forcibly retaining and acquiring agricultural equipment and machinery taken from the farmers during the controversial land seizures starting in 2000.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that the 2004 Acquisition of Farm Equipment Act, which was challenged by three white farmers and a company which had been storing their equipment, was constitutional and therefore could be enforced.

The plaintiffs argued that the act violated certain provisions of the constitution which protect property rights, allow for fair compensation and due appeals process.

The farmers had stored their equipment, which included tractors, harvester combines and other gear at at Manica Zimbabwe, Chirobi (Private) Limited, Dundori (Private) Limited and Mukoko (Private) Limited.

But Chidyausiku ruled against the appellants, saying the government had the right to use the equipment for the benefit of the general public and that the legislation respected the constitutional rights of the litigants to fair compensation.

The other four justices on the bench - Misheck Cheda, Vernada Ziyambi, Elizabeth Gwaunza and Paddington Garwe - concurred with the ruling.

Last month 11 white farmers were brought to trial for allegedly defying a government deadline to vacate their farms. One of the farmers who had appealed eviction is due to appear in court on Thursday this week.

University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Greg Linington told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the supreme court ruling clearly ran against the letter and the intent of the constitution.

For more reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...