The 15 member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on Tuesday at the end of their two day Summit in Gaborone, Botswana signed into existence the establishment of a new Tribunal christened the SADC Administrative Tribunal (SADCAT).
While the formation of the new tribunal is a victory for SADC, the region’s CSOs have lost a five year battle trying to have the original tribunal reinstated.
The Tribunal will now only deal with cases between member states and not individuals or juristic bodies. It will also be confined to advisory interpretation of the SADC Treaty and any other protocols that may be negotiated among member states.
“Summit approved the resolution on the establishment of the SADC Administrative Tribunal (SADCAT),” said SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stegomena Lawrence Tax reading from a communiqué.
The original Tribunal (SADCTribunal) which was established under Article 16 of the Treaty of SADC to advance and ensure the rule of law by strengthening the rights of SADC citizens by providing legal redress, was suspended five years ago because other member states notably Zimbabwe had issues with it .
“Currently, there is no avenue for recourse for citizens at regional level in the event that they exhaust domestic legal channels in search of justice,” the CSOs argued.
SADC adopted the controversial decision following complaints by Zimbabwe over the previous tribunal’s rulings that sought to nullify the revolutionary land reform programme launched by the Government at the turn of the millennium.
But the SADC heads of states and government signed and adopted four legal instruments at the conclusion of their two-day summit held at the resort town of Victoria falls in Zimbabwe chief among them being the revival of the Tribunal as an interstate body.
“This new protocol is in line with the directive that we gave as a Summit. We have also proposed the establishment of an Ad-Hoc administrative Tribunal to deal with labour matters between the SADC secretariat and its employees,” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said.
“The new tribunal will not handle the Malawi and Tanzania Lake Border row because it falls outside its mandate. The mandate of the new Tribunal is limited to solving disputes that borders on the interpretation of SADC’s Protocols and treaties,” SADC Chairperson Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama said at his maiden news conference on Tuesday.
Malawi claims sovereignty over the entire Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest, based on the Helgoland Treaty, a colonial relic, while Tanzania claims under international law it is entitled to over 50 percent of the Lake known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.
The former heads of state of Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa respectively, formed a panel that is trying to solve the Lake border row between the two countries.
Khama said Malawi and Tanzania will have to maintain the path they took in trying to have the dispute resolved.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation George Chaponda told the media during a briefing in Gaborone, Botswana that the Malawi government is still waiting for the resolution by the former heads states.
“But as Malawi we are not the complaint because this is an open and shut case. The lake is ours. If mediation fails then the complainant should go to the International Court of Justice to seek redress,” Chaponda said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :