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Rising from its ruins? The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal

Tapiwa Shumba


The Tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was established to ensure adherence to and the proper interpretation of the  provisions of the SADC Treaty and its subsidiary instruments, and to adjudicate upon such disputes as might be referred to it. However, since its  establishment, it has had a troubled history. After the rulings it made against the Government of Zimbabwe in the landmark Campbell land seizures case,  the Tribunal’s operations were unceremoniously suspended. This was followed by a process to revise its mandate, one that ultimately condemned it  to paralysis and ruin. The new 2014 Protocol on the Tribunal, meant to revise the mandate of the Tribunal to confine it to hearing disputes involving  states only, has been criticised as an attempt to undermine the rule of law and human rights in the region. Since the adoption of this 2014 Protocol by the  SADC Summit, stakeholders have mobilised regionally to resist its ratification by member states. In particular, lawyers in SADC countries are  embarking on legal petitions to reverse the Protocol and promote the revival of the Tribunal in terms of its old mandate. So far, there have been victories  in these cases in two influential SADC member states, South Africa and Tanzania. However, it remains important to assess the significance of these  developments. As such, the article raises the question: Is the Tribunal rising from its ruins?