No land changes: Zimbabwe Govt
Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008
December 01, 2008
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Herald Reporter-Bulawayo Bureau
THE Sadc Tribunal's ruling that 78 white former commercial farmers whose properties were compulsorily acquired by Government for resettlement could keep their farms will not reverse land reforms.
Responding to the ruling made last Friday, the Minister of State for National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Cde Didymus Mutasa, described the tribunal as "daydreaming" and said the Government would disregard the judgment.
He said the Sadc Tribunal would not stall the land reform programme to please former colonial masters.
"They (the tribunal) are day-dreaming because we are not going to reverse the land reform exercise," he said.
Cde Mutasa emphasised that the Govern-ment would accelerate the land reform programme instead.
He said remaining white-owned farms would be acquired by Government for the benefit of those left out of the programme since 2000.
Cde Mutasa said it was important for the Government to protect the majority black farmers who were marginalised for decades.
On Friday, the Sadc Tribunal ruled that 78 white farmers could keep their farms because the land reform programme discriminated against them.
President of the tribunal Judge Luis Mondlane said the Zimbabwean Government had violated the treaty governing the 15-nation regional bloc by compulsorily acquiring white-owned farms for resettlement.
"The 78 applicants have a clear legal title (for their farms) and were denied access to the judiciary locally," he said.
Judge Mondlane ordered the Government "to take all measures to protect the possessions and ownership" of the 75 farmers still on their farms.
However, Cde Mutasa dismissed the call to protect the farmers, saying Government would treat white farmers equally as everyone else.
"There is nothing special about the 75 farmers and we will take more farms. It's not discrimination against farmers, but correcting land imbalances," he said.
The verdict was the first major ruling by the Sadc Tribunal since it first convened in April last year.
The group of white farmers was led by William Michael Campbell, who filed the case last December to seek court relief "from a continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation", according to court papers.
But a lawyer representing resettled farmers, Advocate Farai Mutamangira, described the ruling by the regional court as shocking because it ignored the history of the land issue in Zimbabwe.
He said the tribunal had consistently demonstrated lack of understanding of land reform in Zimbabwe and its meaning to Zimbabweans.
"The tribunal deliberately chose to ignore history and proceeded to decide the matter outside of its historical context. The tribunal got the whole matter wrong at both the municipal and international law. There were so many avenues of escape for the tribunal.
"There are more than 100 reasons and grounds upon which the tribunal could have made findings in favour of the beneficiaries of the land reform, but deliberately chose not to do so," he said.
Adv Mutamangira questioned the logic for and reasons as well as the jurisprudence that the tribunal is developing for the region.
He added that the tribunal decision was completely at variance with the whole essence of liberation and self-determination.
"In short, the tribunal has behaved like a colonial court of the 1950s and 60s by entrenching and protecting colonial minority interests," he said.
Government, Adv Mutamangira said, would not abandon its policy on land on the basis of the shocking ruling by the tribunal.
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