President Robert Mugabe will take over as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) at the heads of State and government summit that gets underway in Victoria Falls today.
One of the expected major outcomes of the summit, besides Zimbabwe taking over the baton from Malawi to lead the regional body for another year, will be the resuscitation of the Sadc Tribunal.
The tribunal was disbanded in 2010 at the instigation of Zimbabwe after the court issued a ruling against the chaotic land reforms spearheaded by Mugabe’s government. Top Sadc judges had ruled that Zimbabwe should compensate the white commercial farmers who were dispossessed of their land at the height of the violent seizures.
Basically the land reform programme was declared unjust as it discriminated against a certain section of the Zimbabwean population.
As usual, the Zimbabwean government chose to ignore a court ruling that did not go its way and vigorously campaigned for the dissolution of the regional court and won the battle.
However, Sadc has crafted a new Tribunal Protocol to re-establish the regional court. There are reports that powers of the new court have been whittled down, but there is still hope that it would nonetheless have teeth to bring errant member States to account.
It is interesting to note that the regional court is being revived at a time when fresh land invasions are being reported across the country. The new invasions are targeting both black and white farmers with Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa being the latest prominent victim.
Mugabe’s counterparts and diplomats attending the Sadc summit are likely to be confronted with the sad tale of workers at Centenary Farm in Figtree that has been invaded by deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula.
Ndhlukula who is one of the key people organising the summit, has kicked out 75 workers and is trying to push out farm owner David Connolly despite a High Court order barring him from doing so. An online petition has been launched to bring to the fore the plight of the farm workers who have been displaced.
This is one sad example of how Zimbabwe could be found wanting in leading Sadc by example. We are hopeful that the Sadc stint would help rehabilitate the country into one that respects the rights of every citizen regardless of race. Zimbabwe also has to lead by example in protecting human rights.