Single title

SADC TRIBUNAL DISSOLVED

The overall mandate of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Tribunal was invalidated at an Extraordinary Summit meeting held in Windhoek on 20th May 2011.

The overall mandate of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Tribunal was invalidated at an Extraordinary Summit meeting held in Windhoek on 20th May 2011.

The decision comes amid stern protests by the Zimbabwean government, which the Tribunal ordered in 2008 to reverse a decision to appropriate farms belonging to 87 white farmers, forcefully taken away from them as part of Harare’s land reform programme.

After Harare’s total defiance to comply with Judge Luis Mondlane’s November 2008 landmark judgment, the continued existence of the Tribunal had become a subject of much debate, with some calling for its disposal.

Zimbabwe claimed that the Tribunal’s ruling contravened the country’s constitutional position on land reform, hence its refusal to comply. Zimbabwe also argued that she was not bound by the rulings as the Tribunal’s constituting treaty had not been ratified by two-thirds of the regional bloc’s members as required.

During the Extraordinary meeting, the summit received and considered a report by a committee of the SADC Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General on the review of the roles, responsibilities and terms of reference of the Tribunal. The report was compiled on the instruction of the last summit, which took place in Windhoek on August 20, 2010.

Based on the content of the report, the summit decided as follows:

1. Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General to initiate the process aimed at amending the relevant SADC legal instruments and submit a progress report at the Summit in August 2011 and the final report to the Summit in August 2012.

2. Not to re-appoint Members of the Tribunal whose terms of office expired on August 31, 2010 and

3. Not to replace Members of the Tribunal whose term of office will expire on October 31, 2011.

The consequence of this decision is that three members including the President of the Tribunal whose term had expired last year have their fate sealed leaving just two members whose term ends at the end of October 2011.

The decision is viewed as victory for the Zimbabwean government but brings into question the commitment of the member states in this regional bloc towards rule of law and human rights issues.