Friday, June 5, 2009

Court refers Zimbabwe land case to region leaders

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) - A court is asking regional leaders to take up the case of white Zimbabwean farmers who want their land back, saying Friday that Zimbabwe's government failed to comply with an earlier ruling.

In November, the Namibian-based tribunal of the Southern African Development Community ruled that 78 white Zimbabweans should not be forced from their land, saying the government's land grab policy was racially motivated. The farmers went back to the court Friday because the government had not complied.

«The government's failure to comply with the 28 November 2008 decision of the tribunal has been established,» Judge Govindasamy Pillay said Friday. «The case will be referred to the SADC summit and we order the costs in favor of the applicant.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's often-violent land reform program, which started in 2000, forced many white commercial farmers from prime farming land. Critics have said it helped turn the country from regional breadbasket into a begging bowl, but the government said the program was meant to benefit the country's black majority.

Zimbabwe signed the treaty setting up the tribunal, which can hear appeals from citizens of any of the bloc's 14 members. But the Zimbabwe government has said the tribunal had no authority in the matter.

The 10-person tribunal ruled Friday that Zimbabwe's land reform program discriminated against white people and was in violation of a regional treaty.