16 judges benefit from land grab

chidyausikuHARARE At least 16 judges from the High Court and Supreme Court have benefited from President Robert Mugabe's chaotic and often violent land reforms, the Commercial Framers Union (CFU) has said raising questions about the impartiality of Zimbabwes judiciary when dealing with land disputes. (Pi

“To date approximately 16 High Court and Supreme Court judges have been given farms under the land reform programme, the CFU said, in a report released last weekend chronicling events starting in 2000 when invasions of white-owned farms by Mugabes supporters started. “These same judges preside over litigation involving commercial farmers attempting to enforce their rights,” said the report that, however, did not name the judges who have benefited.

The CFU the main representative body for white farmers said of the approximately 4 500 white farmers in the country before the land invasions began less than 300 remain controlling less than 1 percent of Zimbabwe’s land. “There are less than 300 productive commercial farmers remaining on the land all but a handful face prosecution for continuing to use their farms. To date, 19 farmers and 29 farm workers have been prosecuted and convicted for allegedly being on the farms without lawful authority,” the CFU said.

The report added that some farmers have managed to lease land on “indigenously owned commercial farms”. Mugabes land reforms that he says were necessary to correct a colonial land ownership system that reserved the best land for whites and banished blacks to poor soils, are blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into food shortages after Harare failed to support black villagers resettled on former white farms with inputs to maintain production.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who formed a power-sharing government with Mugabe 12 months ago has called for an audit to establish who owns which land in Zimbabwe before an orderly land reform programme can be implemented but Mugabe has in the past accused the MDC leader of wishing to return land to former white owners.

Critics say Mugabes cronies and not ordinary peasants benefited the most from farm seizures with some of them ending up with as many as six farms each against the governments stated one-man-one-farm policy.

Mugabe has refused to honour a ruling by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal passed in November 2008. The ruling adjudged the Zimbabwe land reform programme to be in contravention of the SADC treaties.

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.

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