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Zimbabwe high court rejects African tribunal's land reform ruling

[JURIST] The Zimbabwe High Court [official website] ruled on Tuesday that it is not bound by the decision of the Southern Africa Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal) [official website] that ordered the state to halt its controversial Land Reform Program [official website]. The court refused to register [Zimbabwe Telegraph report] a SADC Tribunal ruling [JURIST report] that prevents the state from acquiring land for the purpose of resettlement. Justice Bharat Patel believed that enforcing the ruling, which was in favor of white farmers whose land was taken over in the government's farm redistribution program [JURIST report], would violate the Zimbabwean Constitution and would be against public policy. Patel believed that a decision in favor the SADC ruling would lead to the removal of the majority of the people that the government was trying to support through the redistribution program.

The Zimbabwe High Court had previously ruled [JURIST report] that the SADC Tribunal is not superior to the courts of the individual SADC member countries. 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. One of the farmers, Colin Cloete, 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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