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Zimbabwe not bound by regional court rulings: justice minister

Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Sunday that Zimbabwe is not bound by the rulings of the Tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) [official websites]. The statement comes two days after the Tribunal ruled that farmers who lost their land under Zimbabwe's land reform program [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] may take their case to the SADC summit meeting [JURIST report] next month. Chinamasa also said that the Tribunal's rulings would not influence the Zimbabwe government's policies [SWRA report] on land reform, and called the farmers' cases propaganda efforts. On Monday, the Zimbabwean government filed an application [The Zimbabwean report] in the North Gauteng High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] in South Africa, seeking to prevent the petitioners in the land reform case from attaching property owned by the Zimbabwean government in that country. The farmers attached the land and sought to force its sale in order to enforce the Tribunal order of monetary compensation and payment of legal fees for the land that was confiscated by the Zimbabwean government. The property's value is estimated at over USD $1 million. In January, the Zimbabwe High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] ruled that it is not bound [JURIST report] by the Tribunal's decision ordering the state to halt its land reforms, refusing to register it. Justice Bharat Patel stated 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 [text, PDF] and would be against public policy.

Last week's ruling, which also reaffirmed a previous ruling finding the land reform program racially motivated [JURIST report], discriminatory and contrary to the SADC treaty [text, DOC], marks the third time that the Tribunal has referred Zimbabwe to the SADC summit meeting for non-compliance with court orders, continued human rights abuses and violation of the SADC treaty. The summit has yet to act in any of these instances. In bringing the case to the Tribunal, the dispossessed farmers urged the SADC to suspend Zimbabwe from membership until it either halted the seizures or compensated the farmers, as previously ordered by the Tribunal. The farmers have alleged that they face ongoing violence and harassment by government forces seeking to evict them from their farmland. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] has defended the law, calling it necessary to correct historical racial disparities resulting from the country's history as a British colony.

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