|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that the government can continue with its controversial programme of redistributing white-owned farm land.
He told BBC's Network Africa that the reforms will continue within a week.
Oct 01 Supreme Court backs land seizures
Sep 01 Government agrees to end illegal land occupations
Nov 00 Supreme Court declares land seizures illegal
June-Nov 00 Thousands of farms listed for acquisition
Apr 00 Act allows land seizures without compensation
Feb 00 Illegal land occupations begin
Mr Chinamasa also denied accusations that Tuesday's interim ruling had been made by judges sympathetic to President Mugabe.
But the BBC's Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips says the manner in which the Zimbabwean Government has interfered with the judiciary means this is an extremely contentious decision.
It is nevertheless a significant victory for the Zimbabwean Government.
It means that President Robert Mugabe can now argue that his land reform programme is legal, in compliance with international demands, and paves the way for the government to confiscate the vast majority of white-owned farms.
I believe we no longer have an independent judiciary
CFU lawyer Adrian du Bourbon
The legal representative of the Commercial Farmers Union has described the decision as unprecedented.
Adrian du Bourbon told the BBC that the government now has a free-hand to do what it wants with thousands of farms
He said the ruling has left the impression the court does not recognise "that there is a break down of law and order" on white-owned farms.
Supporters of President Mugabe, the self-styled war-veterans, began their illegal and violent land invasions in February last year.
Many black and white people who opposed the invasions have been intimidated, beaten up killed or have had their properties looted.
Last month, in an agreement with the British, at a Commonwealth ministers meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, the Zimbabwean Government promised not to violate the law, whilst redistributing white-owned land.
The British agreed to source finance for a legal and orderly land reform programme.
But in practice the government has ignored that ruling and violent invasions of farms continued.
Last year the government and its war veteran supporters put pressure on the country's Chief Justice and three judges to resign and replaced them with those widely seen as more sympathetic to Mr Mugabe.
The courts had consistently upheld the rights of white farmers in rulings which had caused considerable embarrassment to the government both at home and abroad.
But orders for the police to evict the invaders have rarely been obeyed.
From The Times (UK), 3 October
New court backs Mugabe's seizure of white-owned land
Harare - Zimbabwe’s new Supreme Court made its first significant judgment yesterday when it backed the government’s seizures of white-owned land. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that the court, which is dominated by recent appointees of President Mugabe, had overturned a ruling by the court of his predecessor, the former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. That court had ordered that all steps to seize land be suspended until the government had restored the rule of law on the country’s embattled farms. For the first time since the takeover of white-owned farms began in February last year, the government has secured a measure of legality for its violent campaign. Diplomats said that Mr Mugabe would present the judgment to the international community as proof of its adherence to the rule of law and to the agreement drawn up by Commonwealth foreign ministers in Abuja, Nigeria, last month to end the state-driven violence. The ruling follows Mr Chidyausiku’s appointment to replace Mr Gubbay, who reluctantly resigned in March after being threatened with violence by supporters of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Mr Mugabe added three new judges, prompting accusations that he was "packing the court" to ensure that its decisions would be favourable to his regime.
Adrian de Bourbon, the advocate who represented the Commercial Farmers’ Union, said: "I don’t believe we have an independent judiciary any longer." The new court’s decision was announced two working days after the final papers were submitted. "It leaves one with the suspicion that the argument wasn’t considered," Mr de Bourbon said. Mr Chidyausiku dismissed an application by Mr de Bourbon yesterday for a week’s delay for him to draw up a challenge. He said that the court would rule later on a Government application for a declaration that it had established law and order on commercial farms and that its so-called fast-track land acquisition programme was legal. The court also directed the Administrative Court, which hears objections from farmers against acquisition of their farms, to start hearing cases, following a nine-month suspension ordered by Mr Gubbay’s court. David Coltart, legal director of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said: "We now have to assume this is a politically biased judiciary and we can not rely on the Constitution any more. However, the rest of the world is not going to believe that the land-reform programme is being done lawfully simply because a patently biased judiciary has ruled in favour of its master."
From The Guardian (UK), 3 October
Judges free Mugabe to seize farms
Harare - The revamped Zimbabwean supreme court delivered a temporary ruling yesterday which upheld President Robert Mugabe's "fast track" seizures of white-owned land. Leading opposition lawyers said the judgment marked the end of the independent judiciary in Zimbabwe. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who was appointed by Mr Mugabe earlier this year, delivered the interim ruling allowing the government to carry on seizing white farms until the court issues a full ruling. The four-to-one majority judgment reflected the makeup of the bench that heard the case: four of Mr Mugabe's new appointees and one veteran supreme court justice.
The decision reversed a supreme court ruling last December that the regime must halt all farms invasions and send police officers to eject illegal occupiers until a workable and written plan of land reform was produced. It made no mention of the earlier judgment, against which the court is considering the government's appeal. The final ruling, whenever it comes, is meant to settle the issue of whether the land seizures are illegal. The government made no immediate comment on the court's written judgment. But a lawyer representing the white farmers, Adrian de Bourbon, said: "Zimbabwe no longer has an independent judiciary, it only has a few independent judges." The finding overlooked several illegal and unconstitutional practices being carried on by the government, he argued: land was being seized without 90-days' notice and without the payment of compensation in a reasonable time, both of which are stipulated in the government's own Land Acquisition Act, passed last year. The government was also allowing considerable violence, theft and destruction of property on the farms, Mr De Bourbon said, and this too was against the law. Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers are meeting to decide what to do now.
Some legal experts said the ruling, and the clear indication that the Mugabe government had packed the supreme court with its adherents, had grave implications, not least for the presidential election due by next April. "The opposition MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] will have very little confidence of a fair hearing in a number of cases coming up to the supreme court in the run-up to the presidential elections," a senior lawyer said. Mr De Bourbon said he would meet the president of the Zimbabwe Law Society, Sternford Moyo, about the judgment. There was so much "disquiet" about it, he said, that he was also going to seek meetings with the South African Bar Association and the International Bar Association. David Coltart, a human rights lawyer and the MDC MP for Bulawayo, said: "This is a sad day in history of our supreme court. It is a complete denial of the aspirations of former Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena to establish an independent judiciary. No one within Zimbabwe or in the international community is going to be fooled by judgments emanating from a patently biased supreme court. This court is simply complying with the will of its master."
From The Daily News, 2 October
Farm invaders burn down workers’ houses
Sixteen farm invaders, led by a man identified only as Comrade Sibanda, burnt down about 70 workers’ houses at Barrymore Farm in the Virginia farming area near Macheke, leaving hundreds of farm workers homeless and without food. Yesterday, about 100 of the farm workers were camped outside the Barrymore police post, giving statements to one police officer deployed from Macheke to deal with the serious case of arson on the farm. George Goodman, the farm manager, said yesterday he was winding up operations on the farm because of the incessant conflict with the farm invaders. "I am winding up operations. There is no farming taking place on this farm and I cannot pay my workers anymore," said Goodman. About 70 permanent and 100 casual workers face an uncertain future if the farm is closed.
The families, some of whom have worked for over 30 years on the farm, said they lost food, blankets and other possessions they had worked for all their lives when their thatched kitchens were burnt. Only the asbestos-roofed main structures remain standing in the farm compound. The farm workers said five of the assailants, including Sibanda, were arrested on Saturday. But the officer-in-charge of Macheke Police Station referred questions to the officer commanding Macheke District in Marondera, who could not be reached for comment.
Goodman said he had to cut short his visit to Nyanga when news reached him on Saturday morning that there was trouble on the farm, which he has leased since 1992. Yesterday afternoon, some of the farm workers were preparing food at the tobacco barns where Goodman has given them temporary shelter following the destruction of their huts. The workers said a group of war veterans, led by Sibanda, arrived on Friday afternoon and abducted a security guard, Rinos Showa. They allegedly beat him up and said he was supposed to leave the farm. They later released him and returned to the farm at around 8pm. "We ran into the mountains with our children when they returned at night, shouting at us to remove our belongings and leave the farm," said Jamiya Ndemenga, a mother of five.
The workers said they had nowhere to go. The foreman, Loiter Mariyano, who has worked on the farm for 32 years, blamed the government for the lawlessness on the farms. A nearby farm, Chilinda, has been shut down with 220 workers losing their jobs because of the activities of the invaders. Goodman said his farm had been listed, delisted, and listed again and he was not sure whether it was still listed as a new wave of violence spreads across commercial farms despite an agreement between Harare and London in which the government agreed to uphold the rule of law. In Bubi, Matabeleland North, Lameck Mhanyai, a worker at Dollar Block Farm, had his arm broken in an attack when about 200 suspected war veterans and Zanu PF supporters descended on the farm last week. Although the police denied any knowledge of the incident, officials at Inyathi Hospital said they had treated nine workers, one with a broken arm. In a separate development, farm invaders raided Windsor Ranch extension in Mutorashanga which is not listed for resettlement.
From The Daily News, 2 October
Grenade blast kills war vet
A war veteran was killed and more than 20 patrons injured on Sunday when a hand grenade exploded in a crowded bar in Nkayi, as relations between MDC supporters and war veterans reached boiling point. This is the second such incident to occur at the Carlton Cocktail Bar in Nkayi, about 90km north-east of Bulawayo. About two months ago a grenade hurled from a group of suspected war veterans into the bar failed to explode and was removed by the police bomb disposal unit. It is believed that the war veteran accidentally dislodged the grenade’s pin, resulting in the explosion which ripped off his arm. Other people were injured by flying shrapnel. Nkayi MP, Abednico Bhebhe, of the MDC, yesterday condemned the incident and said he believed the bomb was meant to be used to attack or kill MDC supporters. Matabeleland North police spokesman, Inspector Alfred Zvenyika, yesterday confirmed the incident and said the police were investigating the matter. He said they had deployed dozens of officers to the volatile area to monitor the situation. Hospital authorities refused to speak to The Daily News.
From BBC News, 2 October
Blair promises to stand by Africa
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has described the current state of poverty in Africa as "a scar on our consciences". And he said that if the world as a community focused on it, it could be healed but if not "it will become deeper and angrier". In his speech to the annual Labour party conference, Mr Blair called on the international community to back a partnership for Africa, between the developed and developing world based around the New African Initiative. "This would offer greater investment, aid and debt relief for Africa," he said. "But it's a deal: On the African side: true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights; no tolerance of bad governance, from the endemic corruption of some states, to the activities of Mr Mugabe's henchmen in Zimbabwe. Proper commercial, legal and financial systems."
In a speech which correspondents described as ambitious, Mr Blair spoke of a "moral duty" to provide international military and humanitarian action in countries anywhere. "If the world continues to ignore the sufferings of African nations, like in the war- ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, it would breed anger and frustration which would threaten global stability," he said. Mr Blair also mentioned the world's inaction during the 1994 genocide in which nearly around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutu extremists. And he promised: "If Rwanda happens again we would not walk away as the outside world has done many times before."
Declassified documents obtained by a US non-governmental agency had showed that the United States knew in advance that the 1994 Rwandan genocide was likely to happen but nevertheless insisted that United Nations peacekeepers should be withdrawn. Following his government's intervention in Sierra Leone's civil war, Mr Blair indicated that he would be ready to use British troops to implement future peace plans. During last May's British election campaign, Mr Blair promised that he wanted to make Africa a key priority during his second term in office. He followed that up with a meeting last month with some African leaders to discuss his proposed partnership with the continent.
From The Daily News, 2 October
Mugabe denied opportunity to present Zimbabwe’s case
President Mugabe was denied a golden opportunity to explain his case in Brisbane and Commonwealth leaders will not have direct dialogue with him until their rescheduled meeting set for early next year. But Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, said the postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Brisbane, Australia, was a missed opportunity for Mugabe. In response to questions from The Daily News, McKinnon said: "It is unfortunate that with the postponement of CHOGM, Commonwealth leaders will not have the opportunity to engage in dialogue directly with President Mugabe, but we are confident that the opportunity will present itself again at the rescheduled summit in Brisbane, which will probably be in early 2002."
The postponement of CHOGM came about after some heads of government indicated they would not attend for security reasons. Security fears arose after the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September, in which about 7 000 people died. McKinnon said despite the postponement of CHOGM, the Abuja agreement between Harare and London remained binding. A team of Commonwealth ministers would visit Zimbabwe soon, he said. "The foreign ministers at the Abuja meeting had intended to go to Harare after CHOGM. The postponement has not affected that and we will now be looking at new dates for the visit," said McKinnon. He said the Abuja meeting was the beginning of a new process. The initiative by the Southern Africa Development Community heads of state was welcome, he said.