Curtains for SADC Tribuna

Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders apparently decided not to renew the terms of judges presiding over the SADC Tribunal, at the recent SADC summit in Windhoek, according to the Democratic Alliance (DA).

These are the judges who ruled in 2008 that Zimbabwe’s land-reform programme was unlawful.
“This effectively renders the Tribunal redundant,” said DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip. Information about the decision came from a source close to the trial, he said.

AfriForum lawyer Willie Spies, who represents several South African citizens who have lost agricultural assets in Zimbabwe, said there’s “truth in these claims”. He said a taxation date for an order to pay costs previously awarded by the Tribunal, which was set for August 23, has been postponed indefinitely.

Zimbabwean farmer Ben Freeth, who has outstanding legal matters in the Tribunal, said he received a letter from the Tribunal’s registrar saying his case had been “indefinitely delayed”.

Claims that the Tribunal has been disbanded raise questions about what will happen to cases still on the roll. “It’s my understanding that the law can’t be overruled retrospectively, and in all likelihood existing judgements will remain enforceable, especially where they’ve been enforced in South African courts,” said Spies.

Earlier this year South African courts set a precedent by recognising the SADC’s decisions as enforceable.
“I received rescission papers from the Zimbabwean government on AfriForum’s successful attachment of Zimbabwean properties in South Africa,” said Spies. “That they’ve asked for the order to be rescinded shows they recognise that a legal process must still be followed.”

The DA was due to submit a question to the president, calling for the International Relations Portfolio Committee to interrogate the decision.