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Zimbabwe high court invalidates regional court decision on land reform

[JURIST] The Zimbabwe High Court [official website] ruled on Wednesday that the Southern Africa Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal) [official website] is not superior to the courts of the individual SADC member countries, in a decision invalidating a SADC Tribunal ruling [JURIST report] in favor of white Zimbabwe farmers whose lands were expropriated by a government land reform program. The case was brought to the High Court by white farmer Richard Etheredge, seeking to enforce the SADC ruling to evict the land reform beneficiary who received his farm, President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe. The judge reasoned [Herald report] that although Zimbabwe signed the SADC Treaty [text, doc] that established the court, the treaty does not expressly state that the tribunal is to be considered the superior court for all member states. White Zimbabwe farmers continue to endure pressure to leave their lands, according to reports [Sokwanele report, VOA report].

In December 2008, four white Zimbabwe farmers were charged with trespassing [JURIST report] on state property for failing to vacate lands that the government seized for the land reform program, in open defiance of the November 2008 SADC Tribunal ruling. Among them, Colin Cloete has filed suit to cause the government and attorney general to register the SADC ruling in the High Court Registry, a step necessary to enable its enforcement in the country. Government officials have expressed that the land reform program is necessary [JURIST report] to correct past racial disparities that favored the white farmers, and the land reform program will continue.

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