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March 27, 2008

More white Zimbabwean farmers seek expropriation relief from SADC Tribunal

The South African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal will decide on March 28 whether to accept more applications by white Zimbabwean farmers contesting seizure of land by the government.

The regional court last December temporarily barred the Harare government from confiscating land from a white farmer, Michael Campbell, pending the hearing of an application by the farmer challenging the legality of President Robert Mugabe’s programme to seize white land for redistribution to landless blacks.

Tribunal Registrar Charles Mkandawire this week said that 77 more farmers had appealed to the court to hear their cases together with that of Campbell, which is scheduled to be heard at the end of May.

Mkandawire said: “The applications by the 77 farmers who want to have their cases joined with the Campbell case were heard (on March 25). The case has now been adjourned for ruling on whether they should be joined and whether they should also be granted a relief in a ruling to be delivered on March 28.”

Campbell, whose case was initially set for March 26 but had to be rescheduled because of Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections, wants the Tribunal to declare Zimbabwe’s land reforms racist and illegal under the SADC Treaty.

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.

A ruling declaring land reform illegal would have far reaching consequences for Mugabe’s government, opening the floodgates for thousands of claims of damages by dispossessed white farmers.

Such a ruling could also set the Harare government on a collision course with its SADC allies particularly if it – as it has always done with court rulings against its land reforms – refuses to abide by an unfavourable Tribunal judgment.

Farm seizures are blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into severe food shortages after the government displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers.


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