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White Zimbabwean farmer wins last-ditch bid against seizure of his land by his government

A white Zimbabwean farmer has won the lawsuit against the government to retain his land.

The case, which was the first to be tried by the Southern African Development Community tribunal established in 2000 to promote rule of law in the region, was considered a test of the bloc's commitment to justice and democracy. It was unclear whether Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would respect the judgment.

The ruling by the three judge panel said that "the Republic of Zimbabwe shall take no steps, or permit no steps to be taken, directly or indirectly ... to evict from or interfere with the peaceful residence on and beneficial use of the farm" by its owner, Michael Campbell.

Campbell, 75, turned to the tribunal, based in Namibia's capital Windhoek, for protection "from the continued onslaught of invasions and intimidation," saying he had exhausted all options in Zimbabwe.

A full hearing on the legality of Mugabe's program to confiscate white-owned farms will be heard Jan. 22 following a legal challenge by 11 white farmers in October.

There was no immediate reaction from the Zimbabwean government, which has evicted more than 4,000 white commercial farmers since 2000 in a land reform program the government argues is meant to benefit the black majority. Critics say it has helped turn the nation from a regional breadbasket into a begging bowl.

Campbell is facing charges in Zimbabwe for refusing to vacate his farm.

Campbell's lawyers argued that Zimbabwe's Supreme Court had already delayed "unreasonably" in dealing with the matter forcing them to approach the regional court. They argued that Mugabe's land reforms were racist and illegal.

Fatima Maxwell of the attorney general's office in the Zimbabwean capital, who represented the government of Zimbabwe, rejected his arguments during the court hearing.

SADC members are Angola, Botswana, Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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