Zimbabwe farmers win legal ruling

A southern African regional court has ruled in favour of more than 70 white farmers who faced expropriation under Zimbabwe's land reform programme.

In a landmark ruling, the court, which sits in Namibia, ruled President Robert Mugabe’s reforms were discriminatory.

Farmers should be allowed to return to their farms unhindered, the court said.

The ruling was greeted with jubilation by the farmers. "It’s
unbelievable," said one. "The end of a long battle. We are going home
to farm."

But it may not be quite that easy.

Although Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga, said the
government would note the ruling, she warned that the government’s land
reforms would not be halted.

And this has been at the heart of the issue.

Regional ramifications

Land is a highly emotive subject in the region.

Whites took land from Zimbabwe’s black farmers by force at the start of the 20th Century.

And when Mr Mugabe led the country to independence there was an expectation the process would be reversed.

But by 2000, just 4,400 white farmers still held a third of Zimbabwe’s land – much of it the best farms.

One million black peasant farmers scratched a living on about the same area.

Since then the government has seized all but a handful of white-owned land.

It is these farmers who have won this ruling at the Southern African
Development Community court, which says in essence that all citizens
must be treated equally, regardless of their race.

The judgement will have ramifications across the region.

South Africa is planning to redistribute nearly a third of its agricultural land.

If the colour of a farmer is no longer a legal criteria for pursuing land redistribution, this programme could be put on hold.

By Martin Plaut


BBC’s Africa analyst

Post published in: News

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