Sadc land case: Zim lawyers walk out
Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008
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July 18, 2008
LAWYERS representing the Government of Zimbabwe at the Sadc Tribunal Court in Namibia in the case in which white former commercial farmers are challenging the compulsory acquisition of land for resettlement yesterday walked out of court protesting against the manner in which the proceedings were being conducted.
What irked the lawyers was the reactivation of the contempt of court order against the Government of Zimbabwe that was thrown out on Wednesday by the tribunal.
The former farmers, claiming that the Government of Zimbabwe was not complying with an interim order to allow them to return to their farms granted last year, brought about the charge.
According to one of the lawyers, Advocate Martin Dinha, the tribunal reactivated the application of contempt of court that was heard after they had walked out.
"We sought to have more evidence heard from the security organs and Zanu-PF to prove that the Government of Zimbabwe was not in contempt of court, but the tribunal denied justice to the Government of Zimbabwe. They did not allow for evidence to be led from the relevant Government organs," he said.
Adv Dinha said they also wanted to prove that one Gift Moyo and other people in Mashonaland West were not assigned by the Government and that they had since been arrested for acts of violence, theft, vandalism and assault.
"We cannot legitimise the kangaroo process where rules of the court are not properly applied and manifest unfairness against our Government and its security organs by a Sadc tribunal funded by the European Union, the US and the British government," he said.
Adv Dinha said the Sadc Tribunal allowed itself to be an "instrument" of the so-called regime change agenda and to injure the sovereign interests of Zimbabwe.
He said the purpose of the contempt of court case was to have the matter referred to the Sadc summit and have the United Nations impose more sanctions on Harare.
"We will defend the interests of our country and we will not allow the Sadc Tribunal to be a football pitch where US and British interests become the soccer match," Adv Dinha.
On Wednesday, the tribunal was forced to throw out the application following a strenuous protest by the lawyers representing the 345 beneficiaries of the land reform programme.
The lawyers had insisted that the intervener application filed by the beneficiaries should be heard first before any inquiry into the alleged contempt of court by the Government of Zimbabwe.
The 345 resettled farmers who were affected by the interim order granted to
white former commercial farmers by the Sadc Tribunal filed a substantive intervener application with the regional tribunal last month.
This was after 77 other white farmers had filed intervener applications that have now been consolidated against the Government to lend weight to the case brought by Michael Campbell to the tribunal.
The case opened in October last year and Campbell, the former owner of Mount Camel Farm in Chegutu, successfully obtained an interdict order blocking Government from acquiring his farm.
The tribunal on Wednesday deferred the hearing of the intervener application to a date yet to be set in September, but it heard the main application in circumstances which legal experts have described as strange and unprocedural.
The setting down of the intervener application for hearing in September means the main case is supposed to be determined after the interlocutory application.
The tribunal cannot determine the main case unless it hears the arguments and reserve its ruling – until it hears arguments from the intervener before making a proper decision.
In their application, the beneficiaries are arguing that they have a right to be heard in accordance with principles of natural justice on a matter that affects their peaceful and lawful occupation of the farms allocated to them.
On the other hand, the farmers claim that Section 16B of the country's constitution constitutes a breach of the rule of law and human rights and violates provisions of the Sadc Treaty.
The section states that in the event that the Minister of Lands compulsorily acquires land, the decision to acquire that land cannot be challenged in court.
Advocate Adrian de Bourbon and Advocate Jeremy Guantlet are representing the white farmers while the Deputy Attorney-General (Civil Division) Adv Prince Machaya assisted by the Director (Civil Division) Mrs Fatima Maxwell and Adv Dinha is representing the Government of Zimbabwe.
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