SA law group wants Zim land probe
Johannesburg - The General Council of the Bar of SA urged Zimbabwe on Tuesday to investigate reports that a government minister encouraged villagers to disobey a court order against farm invasions.
"The GCB calls on the government of Zimbabwe to investigate the reports and to take corrective action to avoid a total collapse of the judicial system in Zimbabwe," it said in a statement.
The bar council said it learnt with "shock and dismay of reports that a Zimbabwean minister of state has encouraged villagers to disobey a court order with which they are not in agreement".
Media reports out of Zimbabwe suggested that Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa was responsible.
Wave of new attacks
The Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) said this sparked a wave of new farm attacks.
According to www.allafrica.com, Mutasa ordered a group of villagers in Chipinge in south-eastern Zimbabwe who were occupying a coffee plantation, to ignore a magistrate's court ruling to vacate the estate.
Mutasa alleged told villagers to disregard this, saying he was merely "protecting the poor".
The SA bar council urged the villagers to follow proper legal routes if they disagreed with the court ruling.
"It is the duty of the government of Zimbabwe and its ministers rather to encourage citizens to obey the law and to follow constitutionally recognised methods for resolving disputes. Encouraging citizens to disobey the law undermines the judiciary and the judicial system.
"Should the judicial system be undermined in this manner, parties to disputes are likely to take the law into their own hands, a situation calculated to promote the violent resolution of disputes," said the bar council.
Often violent land seizures started under President Robert Mugabe in 2000, with an estimated 3 000 white-owned farms believed to have been invaded.
This has had dire effects on the economy of Zimbabwe - once described as the bread basket of southern Africa - with the country now buckling under serious food shortages and poverty.