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‘Selfish JZ allowed Mugabe to kill SADC Tribunal’

‘Selfish JZ allowed Mugabe to kill SADC Tribunal’

March 3 2013 at 02:22pm
By Peter Fabricius

The former Chief Justice of the disbanded Southern African Development 
Community (SADC) Tribunal has accused President Jacob Zuma of “selfishly” 
standing back and letting Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe kill the tribunal 
because it ruled against him on his anarchic land grabs.

Judge Ariranga Pillay said South Africa could have used its power as the 
SADC’s largest state and its “moral authority” to prevent the tribunal being 
emasculated. He was speaking at a seminar in Pretoria organised by the 
University of Pretoria’s Department of Political Sciences and the South 
African Foreign Policy Initiative.

Pillay described how Zuma and other SADC leaders had effectively killed off 
the tribunal at Mugabe’s behest at summits in August 2011 and August 2012, 
both of which Zuma attended.

He said they dissolved it because the tribunal had ruled in 2007 and 2008 
that the Zimbabwe government’s seizure of the farm of white farmer Mike 
Campbell without compensation was racist and unlawful and had violated the 
SADC Treaty because he had been denied the right to complain to the Zimbabwe 

Pillay said it was ironic that Mugabe had been one of the SADC leaders who 
had originally established the tribunal to ensure the adherence of member 
states to the SADC Treaty, including its Article 4, which obliges them “to 
act in accordance with human rights, democracy and the rule of law”.

It was this article which the tribunal invoked when it ruled against the 
Zimbabwe government, Pillay said.

Mugabe rejected the tribunal’s rulings and its jurisdiction and raised his 
objections at SADC summits. The 2010 summit suspended the tribunal pending 
an investigation into its mandate, and then in August 2012 effectively 
destroyed it by deciding it could no longer try complaints by SADC citizens 
against their own governments.

This was despite the advice of outside consultants commissioned by SADC.

And, Pillay said, the SADC summit decision had left SADC citizens with no 
recourse to justice when they are abused by their own governments. The 
disbandment of the tribunal had also left corporations unprotected, he 

Nicole Fritz, executive director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, 
suggests if the tribunal had avoided tackling Zimbabwe’s land reform - one 
of the most politically-sensitive issues in the region - as one of its first 
cases, it might perhaps have survived to consolidate its credibility and 
powers enough to take on such issues later.

Pillay responded that he was not a politician but a judge and had had no 
grounds to throw out the Campbell case “on some specious technical grounds. 
I decided on the facts before me”.

Fritz noted that even Bot-swana’s President Ian Khama had expressed his 
disapproval of the tribunal. This was ironic since he had expressed full 
support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its indictment of 
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Fritz suggested that was because Khama had nothing to fear from the ICC 
whereas the SADC Tribunal had adjudicated a complaint from his country’s San 
people about being pushed off their land.

Laurie Nathan, head of the Centre for Mediation in Africa, at the University 
of Pretoria, said the surprising thing was that the SADC leaders had ever 
established the tribunal in in the first place.

Their decision reflected the SADC’s hierarchy of values, in which human 
rights and the rule of law were subordinate to the respect for regime 
solidarity and state sovereignty.

SADC states had always been “implacably opposed” to any transfer of national 
sovereignty to a regional body like the tribunal because their own 
sovereignty was so fragile. That was because it had been acquired so 
recently from colonial powers and because some states still did not enjoy de 
facto sovereignty as they did not have a monopoly of legitimate power over 
all their territories.

He said SADC had established the tribunal only because of pressure from 
Western donors. - Sunday Tribune 

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