Zimbabwe ignores rule of law

NY Times:

Edna Madzongwe, president of the Senate and a powerful member of Zimbabwe’s ruling party, began showing up uninvited at the Etheredges’ farm here last year, at times still dressed up after a day in Parliament.

And she made her intentions clear, the Etheredges say: she wanted their farm and intended to get it through the government’s land redistribution program.

The farm is a beautiful spread, with three roomy farm houses and a lush, 55,000-tree orange orchard that generates $4 million a year in exports. The Etheredges, outraged by what they saw as her attempt to steal the farm, secretly taped their exchanges with her.

“Are you really serious to tell me that I cannot take up residence because of what it does to you?” she asked Richard Etheredge, 72, whose father bought the farm in 1947. “Government takes what it wants.”

He dryly replied, “That we don’t deny,” according to a transcript of the tapes.

Mr. Etheredge this year became one of dozens of white farmers to challenge the government’s right to confiscate their land, and they sought relief in an unusual place: a tribunal of African judges established by the 15 nations of the Southern African Development Community regional trade bloc.

The case is rooted in one of the most fraught issues facing not just Zimbabwe, but other nations in the region, especially South Africa: the unjust division of land between whites and blacks that is a legacy of colonialism and white minority rule.

But the tribunal’s recent ruling, in favor of the white farmers, is also a milestone of particular relevance to Zimbabwe. It suggests that a growing number of influential Africans — among them religious leaders and now jurists — are confronting Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s 84-year-old liberation hero and president, for his government’s violations of human rights and the rule of law, even as most regional heads of state continue to resist taking harsher steps to isolate his government.

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Mugabe and Zimbabwe ignored the rulings, and it does not appear that anyone else in Africa is willing to do anything to enforce them at this point. The only way for these farmers and the rest of Zimbabwe to have a shot at justice is for regime change in that wretched country.

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