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Local jurist raps regional leaders

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LAWYER Chris Mhike has rapped Southern African leaders for turning the Sadc Tribunal into a preserve for political elites and bureaucrats where ordinary individuals have no access to even in cases where they have been aggrieved by their respective governments.

PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
SENIOR REPORTER

Mhike’s comments came after Sadc Heads of State and Government endorsed a new Tribunal protocol that bars individuals from approaching the court with their grievances.

“Denying citizens locus standi in the manner our rulers proceeded on this issue, amounts to a disastrous departure from the established democratic tradition of government of the people, by the people, for the people,” Mhike said.

“International law is not, and should not be the exclusive domain of governments and bureaucrats who sit in high offices. Useful law is accessible to all.”

The Sadc Tribunal was reconstituted after Zimbabwe protested against the previous tribunal’s judgments which were in favour of white former commercial farmers whose land had been seized under the Zanu PF government’s land reform programme.

The farmers, led by Mike Campbell, approached the Tribunal, arguing that Zimbabwe’s land reform was discriminatory against whites and, therefore, racist.

The farmers went on to attach Zimbabwe consul properties in South Africa to recover their costs and damages, but the matter stalled after Harare appealed.

The Tribunal was then disbanded in 2012 at the Maputo Sadc Summit and the member states agreed that the new protocol on the Tribunal should be negotiated and its mandate confined to interpretation of the Sadc Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between member states only.

It remains unclear whether the Tribunal will maintain its headquarters in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital.

The Tribunal was signed by all members of the bloc. These are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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