Zimbabwean court upholds land seizure law

Harare - Zimbabwe's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a law used by President Robert Mugabe's government to help seize hundreds of white-owned farms.

The court rejected an appeal brought by a white farmer who argued the Land Acquisition Amendment Act should be overturned on the grounds that there had been a procedural violation when it was passed.

Since 2000 Mugabe's government has seized thousands of white-owned farms after often violent invasions by government-backed veterans of the country's 1970s struggle against white rule.

In his court appeal, farmer George Quinnell argued that the lands and agriculture minister who brought the bill before parliament in March 2002 had not been sworn in by Mugabe at the time, making the law invalid.

Supreme Court judge Misheck Malaba said the issues raised by the farmer were of a technical nature which did not affect the validity of the Act and its provisions.

"There would have to be such a defect of constitutional procedure before a court can declare an Act of Parliament invalid on the grounds of procedural irregularity," Malaba said in a judgement supported by four of the five judges hearing the appeal.

The Supreme Court has twice in the past rejected legal challenges to the land law.

Quinnell's Nyalungwe farm outside Harare was seized by the government in 2002 for resettlement.

Zimbabwe's mainly white Commercial Farmers' Union says that nearly 4 000 white farmers have been dispossessed, leaving between 600 and 800 still on their land.

Mugabe's government says the land seizures are necessary to redress ownership imbalances created by Britain's 1890s colonisation of the southern African state, but critics say the seizures have resulted in food shortages because the new owners lack farming experience.

sign up