Farmers hopes pinned on SADC Tribunal hearing Friday

land_reformLand invaders
The hopes of the countrys beleaguered farming community will be riding on the outcome of a SADC Tribunal hearing on Friday, which is set to try to force the unity government to respect an earlier SADC ruling, meant to protect Zimbabwes farmers.

Last November the human rights court ruled in favour of 75 Zimbabwean commercial farmers, seeking an order to stop the government from repossessing their farms under Robert Mugabes so called land reform programme. In its ruling the Tribunal barred the government from further repossessing white-owned farms, saying the applicants had been discriminated against on the grounds of race. The ruling was meant to protect farmers from future land invasions, with the government supposedly meant to ensure their safety and the right to their land.

But the ruling has since been repeatedly violated, with farmers protected by the SADC Tribunal judgement coming under attack as part of the renewed offensive against the countrys commercial farmers. Additionally a High Court judge moved to nullify the SADC ruling earlier this year in a case against a protected farmer, declaring that SADC orders had no legal place in Zimbabwes courts. Robert Mugabe, mere weeks later, declared the SADC ruling null and void while condoning and encouraging more farm seizures.

Justice for Agricultures John Worsley-Worswick on Tuesday said it is ridiculous that the ruling was declared null and void, explaining that Zimbabwe, as a signatory to the SADC Treaty, is legally bound to respect the regional bodys orders.

An increasing number of farm invasions and court prosecutions has been the ultimate result of the nullification of the ruling, with more than 140 farmers facing trumped up charges of being on their land illegally. Physical land attacks have become increasingly violent, with invaders using intimidation and violence to threaten farmers and their workers. More than 80 farms have been violently seized, many farmers remain in hiding, thousands of farm workers have lost their jobs and, critically, no food is being produced in a country crippled by food shortages.

The unity government meanwhile has done nothing to prevent or stop the attacks that clearly violate the Global Political Agreement and are also preventing crucial foreign investment in the country. Mugabes support of the invasions has been expected, but even Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai moved to play down the attacks recently, calling them isolated incidents that have been blown out of proportion. The implementation order by the SADC Tribunal is therefore a desperate measure to force the government to stop the farm attacks.

Meanwhile the countrys notoriously violent war veterans have warned of a year 2000 surge of land invasions, if the MDC continues with its campaign to have central bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana removed from their positions. Leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, Joseph Chinotimba, told state media last Friday his association would forcibly remove all the remaining white farmers from their land if the MDC insists on Gonos and Tomanas removal.

Chinotimba told the ZBC that the source of the calls for the resignation of Gono and Tomana are from whites, and that the war veterans would respond by ejecting all the white farmers who still remain in the farms. Chinotimba continued that if the unity government insists on Gonos removal, we are determined to throw every white farmer off their farms and install blacks in those farms.

As war veterans, we are saying those whites whom we had allowed to remain in the farms would leave with immediate effect – immediately! Chinotimba said. We can only allow them to remain on condition that they drop the issue of Gono – SW Radio Africa News

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