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Court and UN deal double blow to Mugabe

Zimbabwe's highest court has ruled the government's "fast track" land acquisition law was unconstitutional and for a second time this year declared the seizures of white-owned farms illegal.

In the most sweeping ruling against President Robert Mugabe's land seizure programme, the Supreme Court said the government had persistently broken the law in farming districts since ruling party militants were allowed in February to occupy hundreds of white-owned farms.

"Wicked things have been done and continue to be done. They must be stopped. Common law crimes have been and are being committed with impunity," said the 30-page ruling signed by Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay.

"We cannot ignore the imperative of land reform. We cannot punish what is wrong by stopping what is right. The reality is the government is unwilling to carry out a sustainable programme of land reform in terms of its own law," the five judges said in the ruling.

The court said farmers and their workers had been denied the protection of the law from violence and intimidation; that they had suffered discrimination on grounds of political opinions; and that their movement and rights of association were infringed by farm occupiers, ruling party militants and state officials - all in violation of constitutional rights.

The "fast track" land acquisition law passed by ruling party legislators in April violated land owners' constitutional rights to reasonable notice of seizure to enable them to appeal or make other plan, the court said.

The judges gave the government until July 1 to show it was restoring the rule of law in farming areas and formulating "a workable programme of land reform."

Three previous court orders it won to force police to remove illegal occupiers from farms and restore law and order have been ignored by the government.

The ruling came in response to an application by the Commercial Farmers Union, representing 4,000 white farmers, contesting land seizures on constitutional grounds.

The union is to issue a statement on its victory later in the day.
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21st December 2000

The judgement issued by the Supreme Court today is an important step towards finding a lasting solution to land reform in Zimbabwe.

The Court upheld the Union’s contention that its members’ Constitutional rights were not being respected. This is because the farm invasions and present lawlessness are not being dealt with effectively by the responsible authorities. The judgement confirmed that both farmers’ and workers’ rights must be respected and the rulings of both the High and Supreme Courts be implemented.

The Government is given until the 1st July 2001 to formulate a workable land reform programme that can be implemented within the resources available.

The Commercial Farmers Union respects the judgement of the Supreme Court and it is my fervent hope that all stakeholders will grasp this judgement as a timely nation-building opportunity towards sustainable land reform and a return to Law and Order.

T K Henwood
President – Commercial Farmers’ Union
21st December 2000




DATE: 21ST December 2000



A. Introduction

The full bench of the Supreme Court delivered its judgement today, 21 December 2000, in respect of the CFU’s Constitutional Court Application relevant to the Land Acquisition exercise.

B. The Court has declared:

  1. That the rule of law has been persistently violated in commercial farming areas of Zimbabwe since February 2000, and it is imperative that that situation be rectified forthwith; and

  2. That persons in Commercial farming areas have been denied the protection of the law, in contravention of Section 18 of the Constitution; have suffered discrimination on the grounds of political opinions and place of origin in contravention of Section 23 of the Constitution and have had their rights of assembly and association infringed in contravention of Section 21 of the Constitution; and

  3. That there is not in existence at the present time a programme of land reform as that phrase is used in Section 16A of the Constitution; and

  4. That the purported amendment of Section 5 (4) of the Land Acquisition Act by Section 3B of Act 15/2000 is null and void as being in conflict with the requirement of reasonable notice in Section 16 (1) (b) of the Constitution (This means that the previous one year limitation period now applies again to Section 5 notices).

C. The Court ordered:

  1. That all Ministers involved in the Land Acquisition exercise and the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police and President of the Republic of Zimbabwe comply immediately with the Consent Order of 10 November 2000 in Case No SC 314/2000 (which included the requirement of immediate removal of all illegal invaders) and that these persons also comply with the Order of the High Court of 17 March 2000 issued by Justice Garwe. This essentially required removal again of all unlawful invaders from Commercial Farms and the prevention of further invasions; and

  2. That the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the Minister of Rural Resources and Water Development are to produce a workable programme of land reform, and, that the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police are to satisfy the Supreme Court that the rule of law has been restored in the commercial farming areas of Zimbabwe by no later than 1 July 2001, failing which no further steps can be taken in the acquisition of land for resettlement.

D. Further aspects of the judgment

  1. The Court found that legislation promulgated on 7 November 2000 to amend the Land Acquisition Act was lawful and therefore it was not necessary to determine whether the Presidential Powers Act or the Regulations thereunder were constitutional or not.

  2. The Court found that there was no lawful programme of land reform in existence at this time and therefore it was not necessary for the purposes of the judgement concerned to deal with any argument on the question of compensation.

  3. The court specifically held that preliminary section 5 Gazette notices which were published subsequent to 23 May 2000 remain valid but they are subject to the one-year expiry limit that existed before the President changed the Land Acquisition Act in May. Because of this finding you should contact your lawyers for further advice but the Union advises that you continue to respond to preliminary notices within the period specified in the Gazette. That is usually 30 days from the date of the Gazette Notice but check the Gazette for your particular notice.

  4. The position concerning Section 8 Acquisition Orders is not quite so clear. Where Government issues a Section 8 Order before going to court (as is the practice at this time) Government still has to commence court proceeding for confirmation of the Acquisition within 30 days. There is disagreement between the lawyers as to when the 30 day period begins and when it ends. It may begin on the date that the Acquisition Order is signed but there is a strong argument that it does not begin until the Section 8 Order is served on you. The 30 day period may end when the court papers are filed at the administrative court but it is also suggested that the court papers have to be served on the farmer not more than 30 days after the acquisition order was served. Make sure that you keep careful notes of when the section 8 order was served on you and when the court papers were served on you. They can be served on you by leaving them at your farm with a "responsible person". This can be a domestic worker, so workers with any degree of authority should be instructed to get a message to you immediately any papers are brought to your farm.

  5. There is still nothing that you have to do on receipt of a section 8 acquisition order save to watch out for the arrival of the court papers. You must nevertheless prepare yourself to answer the court papers and this has to be done within 15 days of the court papers being served. This is where you really do need a lawyer. The opposing papers in the court case are very important. Government is serving court papers even when land is conceded and even when counter offers have been made but not considered. You must protect your position by filing papers in court to explain whether you consent, oppose or wish to do a deal.

  6. Quite obviously, the findings of the Supreme Court that are listed at the beginning of this memorandum will be further reasons and arguments for the defense that you can raise in the papers that you file for court. This means that the suggested responses already circulated to members will need to be revised and this will be done shortly.




21st December 2000

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Update # 2000/48 Your comments and opinions mean a lot to us.  We are asking you to help us look back at the Zimbabwean media in the year 2000 with a short paragraph or two about what you think were the main stories in the year.  Please send your responses to by 11 January 2001.  Best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year!
MEDIA MONITORING PROJECT ZIMBABWE MEDIA UPDATE # 2000/48 Monday 11th December to Sunday 17th December 2000 SUMMARY · Slavish event reporting characterized the ZBC and Zimpapers' coverage of ZANU-PF's special people's Congress.  Unlike the private Press, they made no effort to provide their audiences with objective or expert political interpretation of the events that took place at the Congress.  The Daily News coverage was so minimal it failed to report some of the decisions taken at Congress.
· Only The Zimbabwe Mirror afforded a full obituary to veteran nationalist Ndabaningi Sithole; the state media reflected the procrastination of the ruling party's Politburo to decide whether he warranted the accolade of national hero; and none of the media asked why it is the prerogative of the ruling party to decide who is afforded national hero status and not the government.
· The rule of law continued to come under threat in the week with The Daily News reporting war veterans' plans to terrorize judges and all the media reporting the threat by Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, to gag the Law Society.  But only The Daily News reported the Law Society president's criticism of government's amendment to the Electoral Act as unconstitutional.
· The murder of commercial farmer Henry Elsworth received attention in all the media.  However, while ZBC avoided any speculation about who was responsible, the private Press accused war veterans without providing the evidence for this.

THE ZANU PF CONGRESS Coverage of the congress in Zimpapers and ZBC was a stage- managed event where only the party's leadership and those supporting them were quoted.  In addition, none of the state owned media provided any objective or expert analysis of events during the congress, limiting themselves to coverage of speeches and statements made by various participants.  There was no detail of the actual debate that took place within the Congress or of the discussions in the closed sessions.
However, ZBC still managed to allocate a disproportionate amount of its television airtime to the Congress.  Not only did it carry live coverage - mainly of the President's speeches - but it also provided unenlightening summaries after the news bulletins.  In addition, 20 percent of the main news bulletins themselves between Wednesday and Saturday was allocated to Congress reports.  ZBCTV's 8pm news on Thursday (14/12) contained a 12- minute report on the Congress.  Radio 2/4's 6am bulletins on 13/12 comprised three items on the Congress out of the 10 items in the bulletin.  Similarly, 15/12's 6am bulletins on Radio 1 through to Radio 4 had four items on the Congress.
In addition to a plethora of merely administrative reports about the congress, ZBC bulletins carried stories that begged explanation.
For example, why it was necessary to increase the Politburo, and why the succession issue wasn't put on the agenda, or even raised.
In the main, ZBC and Zimpapers concentrated on presenting official statements from party spokesmen, including their gratuitous attacks on whites and the opposition, thereby allowing themselves to become a platform to further one party's political agenda at the expense of balance and objectivity.
For example, television and radio quoted Mugabe saying the courts could not stop the people from governing themselves, adding that the region faced a dangerous challenge from whites (13/12 8pm).
The television reported Mugabe saying that all other countries in the region were closing ranks after realizing a threat to their sovereignty from the white community.  The story was repeated in the following morning bulletins.  Radio 1/3's morning bulletins (14/12) reported Mugabe calling upon Zimbabweans to accept the land issue as their last emancipation and criticized the judiciary and the British government for obstructing land reform.
As a means of lending support to Mugabe's remarks, Radio 1/3 and ZBCTV quoted a war veteran saying government should annex all white arable land and redistribute it, adding that the whites must reap what they sowed.
ZBC (15/12) reported an unnamed source saying that delegates had endorsed President Mugabe as the party's president and first secretary until land resettlement was complete.  There was no explanation how this happened or whether there was any discussion leading up to this decision.
The only discourse on this topic, and the appointment of new politburo members, came from the biased perspective of Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, on television's Question and Answer segment of 16/12's 8pm news.  In the interview Moyo said Congress was a "reflection of the kind of dynamism, experience and renewal of what Zanu PF is and it indeed reflects the popular will of the people."  Moyo added that the issue of succession was an externally propagated one and "came from the opposition who are afraid of the party".  He was never asked to explain himself.
The arrival of ruling party representatives from five SADC nations and the stories recording their support for Zanu PF was given unduly extensive and uncritical coverage, as was their criticism of the opposition MDC.  None of the media questioned their servile imitation of Mugabe's crude and racist attacks.
Radio and television 6pm and 8pm (16/12) quoted the Zambian, Malawian and Mozambican ruling party officials saying the MDC was too young to relate to the history of the region and that by accepting money from whites who wanted a return to colonial rule, its members were promoting racist interests.  Television's 8pm bulletin (17/12) quoted South Africa and Mozambican officials repeating the accusations.
Zimpapers also carried extensive official coverage of the Congress in their editions and the preparations for it (including a punch-up between the two Masvingo factions in a fight over accreditation - The Herald 13/12).
But surprisingly, the state Press (15/12) buried the sabre-rattling, racist invective contained in Mugabe's speech to Congress the previous day, preferring instead, to feature the no-debate decision to reaffirm Mugabe's leadership of the party.  Not so the private Press.  The Zimbabwe Independent and The Daily News (15/12)
rightly highlighted his inflamatory attack on the West, the whites and the MDC.  While both papers carried informed analysis about who was due to be appointed to the new politburo, The Daily News, in its welcome new Saturday edition, failed to report news of the appointments.  Such omissions suggest that Zimbabweans seeking to be fully informed must obtain further information from additional sources.
In accessing comment from Edison Zvobgo and Chen Chimutengwende over their dismissal from the politburo, The Zimbabwe Standard, also noted criticism among some Central Committee members who complained that the party's Politburo appears to be usurping its powers as ZANU PF's supreme structure after the Congress itself.
The paper's comment, A congress of cowards, best summed up the stance taken by the private Press.  Part of it read:
So the much-heralded (excuse the pun) People's Millennium Congress has come and gone, and what a predictable farce it turned out to be.
Generally, the private Press rightly refused to allow the congress to smother news of other important events in the week.

(ii) SITHOLE DIES All the media announced the death in America of veteran nationalist Ndabaningi Sithole.  But coverage of the issue focused on the condolence messages sent to Sithole's family, while only ZBC raised the controversy surrounding his hero status - together with the political errors he has made.
The Politburo was widely reported on ZBC as pondering whether to accord Sithole national hero status (13/12 6pm and 8pm Radio 1/3 and ZBCTV; 15/12 Radio 2/4 8pm; 16/12 ZBCTV Nhau Indaba and Radio 1/3 and Radio 2/4 16/12 1pm).  However, Radio 2/4 delayed covering the controversy and did not report the mixed feelings among senior government officials over his status in the bulletins monitored.  Nor did The Herald, which allowed the family to raise the topic of his status in its Friday edition, but studiously avoided seeking any official government comment.  Despite Vice-president Muzenda's remark in The Herald (13/12) that Sithole's death was "a terrible loss to the country because of the role he played during the liberation struggle," this cautious reporting in the state media provided an indication of the decision by the Politburo the following week not to declare him a national hero.
None of the state media's news reports questioned the party to clarify how it accords national hero status or whether there are any clear rules governing the award of such an accolade.  Neither did it question why the Politburo of a single party - and not the government - has the authority to make decisions regarding a "national tribute".
Instead, ZBC's obituaries on Sithole featured the "blemishes" in his political history and ended with the single fact; that he had died with a conviction for treason for attempting to assassinate President Mugabe.
Only The Zimbabwe Mirror gave Sithole's death due prominence through a front-page story and a two-page obituary.  The paper also questioned why the Politburo needed to sit to decide his national hero status when his credentials spoke for themselves.  ".
Sithole is a national hero," it said, "and there is nothing to discuss".

2.  THE RULE OF LAW While the Press widely reported President Mugabe as stating that "the courts would not be allowed to go against the people's quest for full sovereignty." The Herald (14/12), and the private Press, The Daily News (14/12) was the only news organization to report a well-sourced story about war veterans planning to assault judges in their homes in an effort to terrorize them into resigning.
The Daily News (12/12) was also the only news organization to report the Law Society's attack on President Mugabe's "unconstitutional" amendment to the Electoral Act which invalidates any decision by the courts to nullify election results before they have even been heard.
However, ZBC, Zimpapers and and the private Press provided wide coverage of the threat from Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, to use Parliament to gag the Law Society.  The Daily News reported this fact simply, while ZBC and Zimpapers dressed it up as indignant outrage (Zimpapers 13/12, and on Radio 1/3 and television's 8pm news bulletin of 12/12).
Neither ZBC nor Zimpapers reported the comments from Law Society president Sternford Moyo, in which he described the amendment as "a serious usurpation by the Executive of judicial functions".
Instead, they highlighted the legal provisions allowing the President to make any changes he pleases and carried the Minister's threat to silence the Law Society ".for becoming partisan and synonymous with the views of people who seem to have an agenda of subverting our national interest".
The Zimbabwe Independent then reported Sternford Moyo dismissing his namesake's attack as having no legal merit.  State media audiences never saw this either The ZBC report also quoted Moyo as saying that lawyers should not cry foul because the government had implemented "a lawful thing", adding that if anyone was offended by government's action, they could go to the courts.  All the Press reported that the MDC had launched a legal challenge to the Electoral Act modification in the Supreme Court.
Further threats to the rule of law emerged with the murder of a commercial farmer, carried in more detail below.

3.  LAND The murder of former MP Henry Elsworth was reported in all the media, but only Radio 1/3 6pm and 8pm provided a contemporary report in ZBC (13/12) that a Kwekwe farmer had been shot dead by unknown assailants.  Even so, it provided no source for its information.  Radio 2/4 only reported the story on 14/12 morning bulletins quoting the ZRP.  The ZBCTV report came out on 14/12
6pm and 8pm news quoting Mrs.  Elsworth.
The public and private Press reported his murder and ZIMPAPERS' dailies (14/12) hinted at the possibility that his killers were war veterans by quoting the police as saying relations between the farmer and the war veterans occupying his farm "have not been good."
The Daily News (14/12) reported that the farmer's badly injured son, Ian, believed the war veterans were involved in the shooting, while The Herald reported that he had received death threats earlier in the year.  However, it also reported war veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, dismissing this, although he went on to utter threats and statements that conflicted with his denial:
We are not talking to farmers because dialogue has broken down and I don't think it's going to resume.  We are fighting for our land and whosoever is killed, it's tough luck.  In fact it is now going to be very hard for commercial farmers.
They may not even reap or harvest the crops they have planted.  We have finished negotiating with them and what is now left is confrontation.  We respected them too much.
Hunzvi's blatant threats were thus reported without challenge or condemnation by The Chronicle and The Herald.  And in a follow-up two days later, The Herald (16/12) quoted Hunzvi threatening to sue The Zimbabwe Independent for a story that categorically declared that war veterans had killed Elsworth without providing any evidence for this.  Radio 1/3 and television (15/12) Nhau Indaba/6pm and 8pm also reported this.  Even so, in The Herald, Hunzvi was sounding more conciliatory when he claimed that the war veterans had met Elsworth three weeks before his death and the farmer had offered a farm for resettlement:
We.proceeded to inform Governor Cephas Msipa about the offer since his office is co-ordinating resettlement in the Midlands province.  So how could we have killed someone who was holding negotiations with us in such good faith?
The Daily News (14/12) also quoted CFU president Tim Henwood saying:
"The murder of Henry Elsworth represents the ultimate political intimidation against farmers and is a reflection of the depths of lawlessness to which we have sunk."
Zimpapers' Saturday editions continued to supply readers with uncritical speech reporting in the story, Dismiss policemen impeding land reforms, says Hunzvi.  The Herald again quoted Hunzvi accusing some police officers of working in cahoots with the MDC and some commercial farmers to evict people who had occupied farms.
This is unacceptable to us and we are going to identify the officers so that they are fired.  If they are not fired then we will deal with them The paper reported this open threat against the police without challenging Hunzvi about the lawless implications of his statement or obtaining police comment.
Taken together, the reports merely corroborate the general belief that war veterans have indeed become a law unto themselves.
Zimpapers' have done nothing to disabuse the public of this impression.
ENDS Send all queries to the Project Coordinator, MMPZ, 221 Fife Avenue, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 734207, 733486, E-mail:, Web:
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