Zim Judge to rule on SADC Tribunal’s jurisdiction

sadc_tribunalHARARE - A Zimbabwean High Court Judge has reserved judgment in a matter in which former white commercial farmers are seeking an order to register a decision by the SADC tribunal so that it can be enforceable in Zimbabwe.

Justice Bharat Patel will have to make a ruling on whether Zimbabwe was bound to the SADC tribunal’s decision after farmer Collin Cloete and Gramara private limited had approached the court seeking a relief order to that effect. Patel will also decide whether the SADC Tribunal has the jurisdiction to make such rulings on Zimbabwe.Through his lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri, Cloete is arguing that Zimbabwe was bound by the tribunal’s ruling. Uriri said after all the countries in the SADC bloc except Angola adopted the treaty on 14 August 2001 following ammendments that said the treaty does not require ratification by member states.
Uriri wants the tribunal ruling to be registered in terms of the common law in Zimbabwe. Representing the Government of Zimbabwe Gerald Mlotshwa said the direct effect of the registration will be to challenge the legality of the land reform programme.

State Prosecutor Fatma Maxwell said Zimbabwe has to ratify to the treaty for it to be bound by its decisions. “Registering a judgment alone will be contrary to public policy and will result in social and political instability in the country as it nullifies the land reform programme,” said Maxwell. Justice Patel denied renowned South African lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett an opportunity to represent the farmers arguing that South Africa was not a reciprocating country with Zimbabwe.

More than 70 farmers took government to the Sadc Tribunal and in a landmark ruling the regional court backed the farmers, a move that incensed the government. The Sadc tribunal ruled that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was illegal, racist and discriminatory.The tribunal ordered the Zimbabwe government to protect the farmer’s rights to their land. Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa later announced that Zimbabwe was pulling out of the SADC Tribunal in protest to the ruling.

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