This past week the High Court of Couth Africa (North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria) issued an order that required the registration of the South African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruling against the Government of Zimbabwe on it’s land reform policy. This means that the white farmers will be able attach assets of the Government of Zimbabwe in satisfaction of the SADC Tribunal ruling.
This is issue is saturated with political issues, perhaps it not possible to discuss Southern Africa with out discussing those issues. On the most basic level, the registration of the SADC Tribunal decision opens up a channel for positive movement. Regardless of which side of the land reform debate you are on, this decision by the High Court opens a new, previously closed, avenue of action. At the very least it will be fascinating to observe what happens next.
By registering the SADC Tribunal ruling the High Court has contributed to the legitimisation of the Tribunal. This is neutral actually. Whether you like or dislike these tribunals as they resolve international disputes and the decisions they make matter. Sometimes the rulings only matter to the parties. In this case the decision might matter to more than just the parties. For a long time the SADC ruling was virtually ignored. That is a problem for every signatory to the SADC treaty. All of the organs of SADC need to be fully functioning. All the talk of how co-operation and integration are the key to development is just talk unless legitimacy is established.
Everyone can spill all the ink they want on how ‘rule of law’ is a defective idea of the Washington Consensus. Maybe, but I say, cowboy up and use that concept to your own benefit. These farmers did not like what happened to them and they have dedicated some time energy and money to seek justice.
The SA High Court simply did what all SADC members should have done and register the Tribunal ruling. Life has become complicated for everyone on the planet. Rules help us all. We know what to expect in the morning-traffic lights that work, people to be civil to one another, that our pay check will clear the bank and that our family is safe while we go about our day. This is not actually a western idea-it is universal. The SADC Tribunal gave the ruling that they gave. Good or bad it is the law now. Things may be dead in the water, so to speak, but if they are not things are about to get interesting.