THE state this week pressed ahead with the prosecution of white commercial farmers for allegedly staying put on gazetted land despite a Sadc Tribunal ruling last month that they had no case to answer because the countryâ€™s land reform programme undermined the rule of law.
This comes amid reports that the then acting attorney-general (AG) Barat Patel had advised the government to abide by the tribunal ruling.
President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday appointed deputy AG (Criminal Division) Johannes Tomana as substantive attorney-general and Patel will return to the High Court bench where he is a judge.
Four farmers, among them Thomas Beattie and Colin Cloete, appeared before a Chinhoyi court yesterday, but magistrate Tinashe Ndokera postponed the matter to January 5 as state papers were not in order for trial to kick off.
The court heard that prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare had left court documents in Harare and, therefore, the matter could not proceed.
Beattie and Cloete were some of the farmers who approached the Sadc Tribunal seeking redress after they were served with eviction orders while others were evicted from their farms by the government.
The tribunal ruled that the action of the government was driven by racism and contravened a treaty of Sadc.
The ruling read:â€We therefore hold that in implementing (Constitutional) Amendment 17, the respondent (Zimbabwe government) has discriminated against the applicants (farmers) on the basis of race and thereby violated its obligation under Article 6 (2) of the (Sadc) Treatyâ€
The Namibia-based tribunal ruled that the farmers evicted from their land and those who received notices of evictions should return or stay put on the farms because Zimbabweâ€™s land reform undermined the rule of law.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act 17, which became law in 2005, nationalised all land, and the Gazzetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act served all remaining white farmers with eviction notices.
The notices that have since expired gave Beattie and his co-accused a 90-day grace period to wrap up business and vacate their properties from the day of receiving them.
If found guilty, the four face up to two years in jail.
BY LUCIA MAKAMURE