Tribunal rules in favour of Zim farmers

2010-07-16 13:44

Windhoek - A southern African regional tribunal on Friday ruled that two Zimbabwean white farmers may continue living on and working their land, challenging the stance of a Zimbabwe court.

"The application of farmers Louis Fick and Michael Campbell is granted as the respondent - the Zimbabwean government - failed to comply with a previous order of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Tribunal," Justice Jamu Mutambo said.

White farmers in Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of the region, have faced compulsory expulsions and the loss of their land turned over to blacks since President Robert Mugabe launched land reforms a decade ago, aiming to correct a colonial legacy that left whites owning most of the best farmland.

"The tribunal also grants the relief sought by the applicants to have this matter referred to the upcoming SADC summit," Mutambo ruled.

The annual summit will be held in the Namibian capital Windhoek next month when President Hifikepunye Pohamba will take over the chairmanship from Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.'
Rogue country

The two farmers had appealed to the SADC tribunal after the Zimbabwean high court failed to register and comply with a previous ruling that allowed the white farmers to continue living and working on their land.

"We are satisfied with the ruling as these farmers have experienced repeated violence and were chased off their farms and their workers harassed," said Namibian lawyer Norman Tjombe, who represents the farmers.

Tjombe added that "evidence is mounting against Zimbabwe as a rogue country, not respecting justice and human rights".

"If the SADC summit does not take action on this matter, SADC and its tribunal can only be regarded as a white elephant," Tjombe said.

The tribunal found in 2008 that Zimbabwe had wrongly taken land from nearly 80 farmers, saying they had been targeted due to their race.

Zimbabwe's chaotic land reform campaign was marred by deadly political violence and wrecked the farm-based economy, leaving the country dependent on international food aid.