SADC Tribunal not suspended: Salamao

tomaz_salamaoHARARE -- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal has not been suspended and will continue to hear cases already before it while its mandate and role are being reviewed, the groups executive secretary Tomaz Salamao has said. (Pictured: Tomaz Salamao -- The Tribunal was

Responding to questions by ZimOnline on the fate of the Tribunal after some regional diplomats and Zimbabwean government officials said a SADC summit held in Namibia two days ago had resolved to suspend the court, Salamao said: Lets be clear on this. The Tribunal was not been suspended.

In a brief telephone interview last Wednesday, Salamao said: No one took a decision to suspend the Tribunal. What was said is that the Tribunals role (and) responsibility has to be reviewed by professionals and experts to come up with clear recommendations.

The review will firstly be done by a committee of SADC justice ministers and then attorney generals within a period of six months. In the meantime, they dont entertain any new cases but they can deal with those they have at hand.

Zimbabwes Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa had told reporters last Tuesday that the Tribunal, which has issued unfavourable rulings against President Robert Mugabes land reforms, had been ruled a legal nullity and could not perform any functions until the review is completed.

A senior South African diplomat, who attended the SADC summit, also told ZimOnline that it had resolved to suspend the Tribunal.

Both Chinamasa and the South African diplomat were not immediately available to comment on Salamaos revelations.

The Tribunal has been a thorn in the flesh to Mugabe and his ZANU PF party after it ruled in November 2008 that the Zimbabwean leaders controversial land reform programme was discriminatory, racist and illegal under the SADC Treaty.

The regional court ordered the Zimbabwe government not to seize land from the 79 farmers who had appealed to the Namibia-based court and said Harare must compensate those it had already evicted from their farms.

However Mugabe has refused to accept the verdict of the Tribunal that has no power to enforce its rulings except through decisions of a summit.

Even though Zimbabwe has signed the treaty creating the regional court, Mugabe insists it is invalid because the tribunal treaty was never ratified by two thirds of members of the bloc.

In addition, Mugabes supporters have stepped up a campaign to drive Zimbabwes few remaining white farmers off the land.

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