SADC court grants relief to Zim white farmers

SADC court grants relief to Zim white farmers
HARARE - A regional court on Friday barred the Zimbabwe government from evicting 74 white farmers pending full determination of a joint application by the farmers challenging the legality of Harare's controversial land reforms.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal said it would hear the farmers’ case together with another appeal by white landowner Michael Campbell who was the first to appeal to the court last December against the seizure of his property. The Tribunal temporarily interdicted Harare from evicting Campbell pending hearing of his application in May. 77 farmers had this month appealed to the Tribunal to have their cases heard together with that of Campbell. Registrar Charles Mkandawire told Zimonline that the Tribunal had upheld the farmer’s application. The application was successful. All the 77 applicants have been allowed to be part of the main Campbell case, he said. The Zimbabwe government has been ordered not to evict 74 farmers who are still on their farms, the other three farmers have already been evicted from their properties, added Mkandawire. The farmers want the Tribunal to declare Mugabe’s programme to seize white-owned land for redistribution to landless blacks racist and illegal under the SADC Treaty. Article 6 of the regional Treaty bars member states from discriminating against any person on the grounds of gender, religion, race, ethnic origin and culture. A ruling declaring land reform illegal would have far reaching consequences for Mugabe’s government, opening the floodgates for thousands of claims of damages by dispossessed white farmers. Such a ruling could also set the Harare on a collision course with its SADC member governments particularly if it – as it has always done with court rulings against its land reforms – refuses to abide by an unfavourable Tribunal judgment. Farm seizures are blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into severe food shortages after the government displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers.

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