Ezulwini (Swaziland) — The Southern African Development Community Law Association (Sadcla) has blamed Zimbabwe for the collapse of the Sadc Tribunal following the regional grouping’s summit in Maputo, Mozambique recently.Report by Nevanji Madanhire
The summit extended the suspension of the Tribunal in place since 2008 when Zimbabwe refused to abide by its rulings. The Maputo summit also proposed that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction be limited only to interstate disputes.
Speaking at the official opening of the Sadcla annual general meeting here on Friday, outgoing president of the Regional Lawyers Association Thoba Poyo-Dlwati said the suspension of the Tribunal and the proposed narrowing of its mandate to only addressing interstate issues was “a clear indication that our leaders are concerned more with protecting their turf than with the rights of the citizens”.
“This is the clearest case in the region of the undermining of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary especially if we consider that the suspension of the Tribunal in the first place was motivated by Zimbabwe’s refusal to abide by the judgements of the Tribunal and respect the independence of the judiciary,” she said.
The suspension of the Tribunal was motivated by Zimbabwe’s refusal to abide by the judgements of the court when former white commercial farmers who had their land acquired and redistributed to blacks by the State without recourse took their case to the Sadc body which ruled in their favour.
The Zimbabwe government argued that the land reform programme was meant to redress historical imbalances and therefore could not be adjudicated over by the Tribunal. The government refused to abide by the ruling causing the suspension of one of Sadc’s most important agencies.
The law association distanced itself from the summit’s decision, describing the proposed new body as “sham”.
“The proposed nature of the Tribunal that hears only interstate disputes is unheard of in this day and age when other regions are fighting hard to involve citizens and ensure that the rights of citizens are protected,” Poyo-Dlwati said.
She said it was unlikely that the heads of state and government would take each other to the Tribunal, rendering the institution only a court in name and building as no cases would be heard there. She said the proposed Tribunal could therefore not be seen as a legitimate and effective institution.
“As lawyers, and I am sure many other citizens of Sadc, we therefore reject the proposed Tribunal and wish to state categorically that we will not be part of that sham institution.”
’Land reform was discriminatory’
The Tribunal ruled that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was unconstitutional since it discriminated against the white farmers on the grounds of race and therefore the farmers should have their properties restored to them.