The whole legal team of the Zimbabwean government yesterday embarrassed itself by walking out of the hearing of a regional tribunal in Namibia.
They refused to listen to an urgent application brought by the lawyers of three badly assaulted Zimbabwean farmers – part of a group of 78 farmers seeking relief to prevent their farms being expropriated by that government.
Reports from Namibia say Jeffrey Gauntlett, who represents the farmers, asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal to declare the Zimbabwean government in breach – and in contempt – of its earlier order to allow all the farmers, their families and their farm workers to carry on living on their properties unhindered and without interference until the tribunal gives a ruling on the original appeal.
He further asked the tribunal to forward this declaration to the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana, and refer it to the annual SADC summit next month and also to the United Nations Security Council.
“Our clients nearly died from that brutal abduction and assault of June 29 and it is a matter of life and death,” Gauntlett told the five judges.
He represents Michael Campbell, his wife Angela and his son in law Ben Freeth, who are still suffering from last month’s severe beatings at the hands of alleged Zanu-PF militia.
“I don’t see the purpose of this urgent application and I ask for postponement so that their lawyers can provide evidence of such allegations so that we can make a submission,” Zimbabwean deputy attorney general Prince Machaya demanded.
SADC Tribunal President Judge Luis Mondlane rebuked Machaya, telling him not to embark on “delaying tactics”.
“We will hear the urgent application now,” Mondlane ruled.
“I will not be able to deal with this matter then and ask to be excused from the matter,” Machaya said and walked out with his two government lawyers, followed by several officials of the Zimbabwean High Commission in Namibia.
A ruling on the urgent application is expected today.
In March this year, the SADC Tribunal ordered the Zimbabwean government to halt the eviction of 73 of the 78 farmers and granted them and four others who had already been evicted from their properties the right to have their cases heard along with Campbell.