Monday, April 12, 2010

Civil Procedure in Action: more drama surrounding the 2008 SADC Tribunal ruling!

A house owned by the Zimbabwe government and located in the Cape Town suburb of Kenilworth was attached in early April pursuant to a court order from the High Court of South Africa. See Muzungu on Africa, 10 Feb 2010. The court order registered the SADC tribunal ruling of 2008 as well as a late order granting damages to white farmers whose land was seized in Zimbabwe under the government’s land reform programme.

I teach Civil Litigation, and have done for many years, through the University of California, at Irvine, Paralegal Extension Program. Procedural matters are thrilling. It is in the process of satisfying judgments that you begin to emerge from the smoke (and mirrors) of the dispute and reach a state of clarity. You have a judgment and it will be satisfied. The dispute is over so there is no more emotional turmoil only satisfaction of the judgment. I like that imagined space.

The Zim government originally claimed that the property had diplomatic immunity so it could not be attached. News reports stated that this was not the case and the property was in fact attached in order to satisfy the court judgment. (see endnote citation)

However, in a fascinating twist the South African Government said it would oppose the attachment of property. I wait with interest for any news regarding the grounds of this opposition. The opposition could jeopardise the High Court ruling and undermine the SADC Tribunal ruling as well.

There is something greater than politics at play here. What is at stake in all of these proceedings is the legitimacy of the SADC Tribunal itself. That tribunal represents both SA and Zim together as members of SADC. If the SA High Court ruling is not respected it is tragic for all the parties involved because it destabilises the SADC ruling. A working and respected SADC Tribunal takes all disputes under SADC jurisdiction, out of domestic courts and sets them for resolution in an arena that is consensual and co-operative. I think this is a good thing. The facts surrounding this ruling make it more interesting to write (and read) about but for me it is about alternative dispute resolution and not racial and political friction in that desperate part of the planet.

I look forward to learning about the basis for the SA government opposition. You may recall, they did not oppose the registration of the SADC ruling way back when it made sense to do so.

Politics may win out-it seems to trump everything down there. Yet, I am hopeful. Civil procedure is a powerful thing. It’s like laser surgery-little or no blood, but it eradicates the target. - South Africa

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