Zimbabwe Black Farmer Wins SADC Court Case

Windhoek – A regional tribunal based in Namibia on Thursday halted the eviction of a 70-year-old black Zimbabwean commercial farmer by the government in Harare.

Luke Tembani became one of Zimbabwe’s first black commercial farmers shortly after independence in 1980, but faced eviction on May 21 after the national agricultural bank sold his farm to recoup a loan.

Documents filed with the tribunal of the Southern African Development Community said that the farm had been sold in 2000, without any court hearings, even though he was still living on it.

The judges in Windhoek ruled that Tembani can stay on his farm until the tribunal makes a ruling on the case, with the next hearing set for June.

"No interference may take place with the farmer’s peaceful stay on the farm," Justice Ariranga Pillay ordered.

"Nor may any eviction happen until the application is heard and determined."

Zimbabwe had objected to the hearing and has yet to reply in the case.

Tembani, who did not attend the hearing, had taken a loan more than a decade ago from the Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe (ABZ) to expand his operations.

According to court documents, he defaulted on part of his repayments when interest rates soared in 1997, when Zimbabwe’s economic crisis unfolded.

"ABZ could not give Tembani exact figures on the money he owed as he wanted to sell off a small portion of his farm to clear the loan, which was approved," his court application said.

The problems emerged as Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was embarking on a violent and often chaotic scheme to resettle black farmers on white-owned lands.

The SADC tribunal in November ruled against the land reforms, saying 78 white farmers could keep their land because the scheme amounted to racial discrimination. Mugabe’s government rejected the ruling, but the new unity government says it wants to resolve the problems on the farms.

After the land reforms, Zimbabwe’s agricultural production plunged.

Now more than half the population depends on international food aid for survival. – AFP