“Why would they [SADC leaders] support a strong regional court if they do not support strong courts in their own countries?” questioned Tjombe.
He maintained that the courts in Angola, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Swaziland, and Lesotho have “very poor records” of judicial independence that are overwhelmingly “dis-empowered”.
However, added Tjombe, it was expected that countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa with independent judiciaries adopt a more “progressive” position on the Tribunal.
The summit resolved that a final report on the review of the Tribunal only be considered in August 2012, during which time no reappointments of members of the institution be done.
It further decided that the regional court would not hear any new cases or hearings until the SADC Protocol on the Tribunal has been reviewed and approved.
“Civil society must make sure that at SADC level regional leaders collectively see to it that an independent court implements human rights standards instead of political decisions. This should be ensured at individual country level as well,” commented Tjombe.
He said a legal challenge to SADC’s position on the Tribunal has not yet been explored, but added: “It is a long battle; it is not over yet.”
Political analyst, Professor Bill Lindeke, also expressed his disappointment at the emaciated report on the outcome of the summit deliberations.
“The summit just kicked the can down the road without taking any decisions except that it would deal with issues later,” said Lindeke.
He commented that SADC would be the loser if it continues to defer matters.
Tjombe said there appears to be a commitment not to resolve issues but to protect individual governments, and added that the non-decision on Zimbabwe plays right into the hands of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF.
At the start of the summit, President Hifikepunye Pohamba as chairperson of SADC indicated that it would consider reports on the ongoing mediation efforts in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
It was presumed that the summit did not take any decisions on Zimbabwe because of the absence of South African President Jacob Zuma from the event due to municipal elections in that country last week.