SADC tribunal rules in favour of Zim farmer

SADC tribunal rules in favour of Zim farmer

A FARMER from Zimbabwe who applied to the SADC tribunal for an interim relief order against the Zimbabwean government to allow him to remain on his expropriated farm until the Supreme Court in Harare rules on his appeal case, was granted the relief yesterday.

“The Tribunal grants the application pending the determination of the main case and orders that the Republic of Zimbabwe shall take no steps, or permit no steps to be taken, directly or indirectly, whether by its agents or by orders, to evict from or interfere with the peaceful residence on and beneficial use of the farm known as Mount Carmell in the Chegutu District in Zimbabwe, by Mike Campbell Ltd and William Michael Campbell, their employees and the families of such employees and of William Michael Campbell,” SADC Tribunal President Dr Louis Mondlane said in the ruling. The Tribunal made no order on costs.The landmark case has attracted considerable international interest.Mondlane further ruled that the argument of the Zimbabwe government, that Campbell had not exhausted all legal avenues in Zimbabwe for interim relief, did not hold water and was “of no relevance”.”The respondent (Zimbabwe government) did not oppose the present application,” Mondlane outlined.Farmer William Michael Campbell (75) sought relief for himself and his family and all his employees “from the continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation”, according to his lawyer, Adrian de Bourbon.It is the first time that the regional judicial body, which has its offices in Windhoek, has sat for a session since it was established in February 2006 in terms of a decision of the 14 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”We filed a case in March to challenge the Zimbabwean government’s constitutional amendment removing the legal right of farm owners to challenge compulsory land expropriations in a court in the Harare Supreme Court,” lawyer De Bourbon told the three judges on Tuesday.”We are still awaiting a ruling.This left us with no legal relief or remedy in Zimbabwe and we approached the SADC tribunal.””We seek interim relief for the applicant, Mr Campbell, to remain on his farm and we seek to revert to the situation of March 2007, when the case was heard in the Harare Supreme Court,” De Bourbon told the judges.The intention was to allow the Campbell family, their workers and their families to stay on the farm until that Supreme Court ruling is made.According to Bourbon, Tuesday’s hearing was a preliminary one, as he would still apply to the Tribunal for a final relief order for Campbell.”We propose the date of January 22 for the proper hearing,” he told the three judges.Campbell currently faces criminal charges in a Zimbabwe district magistrate’s court for still being on his farm and could face up to two years in prison.He must appear in that court on January 4.Lawyer Nelson Mutsonziwa, representing the Zimbabwean government, argued that the tribunal could only be approached “once all domestic avenues seeking relief” were exhausted.”The applicant could also have sought a relief order back in Zimbabwe,” Mutsonziwa said.”The applicant’s case is still pending in Zimbabwe, awaiting judgement.One cannot come to the tribunal if the matter is still being handled domestically.”Mutsonziwa further argued that the Zimbabwe government, wanted to settle “deserving people” on Campbell’s farm.De Bourbon countered that a government minister was supposed to get the farm.”It is simply not true that ‘deserving people’ will get the farm, it is a cabinet minister, why can’t he wait until the hearing?” SADC Tribunal President Louis Mondlane, who is from Mozambique, adjourned the hearing after three hours.Campbell and his son-in-law, Ben Freeth, were present on Tuesday.”We are impressed, the judges were powerful and strong,” Campbell told The Namibian.”Our case was now heard on a purely legal basis on a regional platform.The present political climate in Zimbabwe does not allow that.”The other two judges were Justice Isaac Mtambo from Malawi and Justice Onkemetse Tshosa from Botswana.The Tribunal made no order on costs.The landmark case has attracted considerable international interest.Mondlane further ruled that the argument of the Zimbabwe government, that Campbell had not exhausted all legal avenues in Zimbabwe for interim relief, did not hold water and was “of no relevance”.”The respondent (Zimbabwe government) did not oppose the present application,” Mondlane outlined.Farmer William Michael Campbell (75) sought relief for himself and his family and all his employees “from the continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation”, according to his lawyer, Adrian de Bourbon.It is the first time that the regional judicial body, which has its offices in Windhoek, has sat for a session since it was established in February 2006 in terms of a decision of the 14 member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”We filed a case in March to challenge the Zimbabwean government’s constitutional amendment removing the legal right of farm owners to challenge compulsory land expropriations in a court in the Harare Supreme Court,” lawyer De Bourbon told the three judges on Tuesday.”We are still awaiting a ruling.This left us with no legal relief or remedy in Zimbabwe and we approached the SADC tribunal.””We seek interim relief for the applicant, Mr Campbell, to remain on his farm and we seek to revert to the situation of March 2007, when the case was heard in the Harare Supreme Court,” De Bourbon told the judges.The intention was to allow the Campbell family, their workers and their families to stay on the farm until that Supreme Court ruling is made.According to Bourbon, Tuesday’s hearing was a preliminary one, as he would still apply to the Tribunal for a final relief order for Campbell.”We propose the date of January 22 for the proper hearing,” he told the three judges.Campbell currently faces criminal charges in a Zimbabwe district magistrate’s court for still being on his farm and could face up to two years in prison.He must appear in that court on January 4.Lawyer Nelson Mutsonziwa, representing the Zimbabwean government, argued that the tribunal could only be approached “once all domestic avenues seeking relief” were exhausted.”The applicant could also have sought a relief order back in Zimbabwe,” Mutsonziwa said.”The applicant’s case is still pending in Zimbabwe, awaiting judgement.One cannot come to the tribunal if the matter is still being handled domestically.”Mutsonziwa further argued that the Zimbabwe government, wanted to settle “deserving people” on Campbell’s farm.De Bourbon countered that a government minister was supposed to get the farm.”It is simply not true that ‘deserving people’ will get the farm, it is a cabinet minister, why can’t he wait until the hearing?” SADC Tribunal President Louis Mondlane, who is from Mozambique, adjourned the hearing after three hours.Campbell and his son-in-law, Ben Freeth, were present on Tuesday.”We are impressed, the judges were powerful and strong,” Campbell told The Namibian.”Our case was now heard on a purely legal basis on a regional platform.The present political climate in Zimbabwe does not allow that.”The other two judges were Justice Isaac Mtambo from Malawi and Justice Onkemetse Tshosa from Botswana.

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