Commercial Zimbabwean farmers have launched the SADC Tribunal Rights Watch to seek compensation for the loss of their farms and livelihoods, and to stop farm seizures. This was according to a statement from the organisation.
The farmers’ legal team served notice on President Robert Mugabe; the Minister of State in the Office of the President; Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora; the Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa; and the Zimbabwean government earlier in August.
The notice was served under the Southern African Community Development Community’s (SADC) protocol on finance and investment.
“Our dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers have been wronged,” said SADC Tribunal Rights Watch spokesperson, Ben Freeth.
Freeth said the farmers have a final and binding 2008 judgement from the SADC Tribunal, which ordered the Zimbabwe government to pay fair compensation for land it had expropriated.
The government has failed to comply with the order. Freeth added that unless accountability deepened, “no investment will take place in our country” and the economic crisis would worsen. He said that without property rights and the rule of law, Zimbabwe’s negative trajectory as a failed state would accelerate.
The finance and investment protocol, which came into force in April 2010, offers all SADC investors legal protections, which include the right to prompt, adequate and effective compensation with respect to expropriated investments, and to fair and equitable treatment, including protection against denial of justice.
In the case of investments seized in violation of the protocol, the first step to settle the dispute is through dialogue. If there is no settlement, the next step is arbitration.
At the SADC Summit in 2012, the SADC heads of state restricted regional citizens’ access to the SADC Tribunal, denying citizens legal recourse, regardless of their countries’ policies.
The SADC heads of state resolved that a new protocol on the tribunal be negotiated and its mandate confined to interpretation of the SADC treaty and protocols relating to disputes between member states.
In May 2017, SADC heads of state signed an amendment to the protocol that aimed to stop investors from seeking redress through it.
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