JAG’s decision to resort to the tribunal was spurred by a Supreme Court ruling last week that the government could acquire all farming equipment and machinery belonging to dispossessed white farmers.
The SADC Tribunal was established by Article 9 of the SADC treaty as a central institution of the regional body in 1992, but only launched in 2005, and has a mandate to ensure that member countries adhere to the rule of law.
John Worswick, chief executive officer of JAG, told IRIN they would also take their case to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), a statutory body of the African Union based in Banjul, Gambia, which monitors the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to ensure that “freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples”.
Several Supreme Court justices are among the beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform programme, which sought to redistribute white commercial farmland to landless blacks, but which critics of the policy say has instead seen land handed out to government officials, politicians and high-ranking members of the ruling ZANU-PF party, and army and police officers.
President Robert Mugabe launched the government’s fast-track land reform programme in 2000, but many white farmers warehoused their farming equipment and machinery before or after their land had been redistributed.
According to international donor agencies, more than a third of the population, or 4.1 million people, require emergency food aid, which analysts say was a result of the chaotic land reform programme and drought. The government blames the food shortages on sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union as well as the weather.
In a bid to regain Zimbabwe’s previous position as a next exporter of food, the government has embarked on a programme to mechanise agriculture, billed as the “The Mother of All Farming Seasons”, and has created a new ministry – the Agricultural, Engineering and Mechanisation Ministry – to oversee the mechanisation of the sector.
However, the inflation rate of nearly 8,000 percent – the highest in the world – has also led to acute shortages of foreign exchange to buy spare parts, chemical inputs, fuel and electricity. The recent poor winter wheat harvest was blamed on shortages of fuel and electricity, which made electrical and fuel-driven irrigation equipment inoperable.
The court ruling has triggered a wave of farm machinery seizures from the few remaining white commercial farmers, said to be about 400, and farmers told IRIN there had been reports of new evictions of white commercial farmers since the ruling.
Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu declined to comment and told IRIN, “I am hearing that they want to contest the court decision for the first time from you, which means that is a rumour, because they [JAG] have not told us that is the decision which they want to take. Court rulings should be respected.”
Worswick claimed, “Since 2000, all judgements relating to land have been political judgements, and not based on justice and fairness. We are in the process of exhausting all legal avenues and at this stage we are at an advanced stage of forwarding our case to the SADC Tribunal and the ACHPR. The fact that the Supreme Court made its ruling does not mean that we should give up. We are prepared to go all the way to international courts in … The Hague.”
Of the about 4,300 white farmers evicted from their farms, only 300 had been compensated, according to Worswick. “The few that accepted the ridiculously low compensation were the elderly farmers who had become destitute because they could not farm. A majority of them wanted to buy medication,” he said.
The farmers maintain that in terms of the value of land and infrastructure, such as dams, houses and barns, they are owed a total of US$30 billion, but the government argues that the farmers should only be paid compensation for improvements on the land, as it was stolen from the indigenous people by settlers during the country’s colonisation in the 1890s. – UN Integrated Regional Information Networks.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]Post published in: Uncategorized