Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal

by Henok Birhanu Asmelash

MPILux Working Paper 10 (2017)

Introduction: The Southern African Development Community (‘SADC’) Tribunal is one of the majorsub-regional courts established by African countries over the past few decades. It was established pursuant to Article 9 (1) Treaty of the Southern African Development Community (‘SADC Treaty’) together with five other original SADC institutions to spearhead regional cooperation and integration in Southern Africa. As set out in Article 16 (1) SADC Treaty, the main purpose of the SADC Tribunal is ‘to ensure adherence to and proper interpretation of the provisions of the SADC Treaty and subsidiary instruments and to adjudicate upon such disputes as may be referred to it’. As such, the SADC Tribunal is the judicial arm of the SADC. 

The Tribunal has been suspended since 2010 following its landmark ruling against the Republic of Zimbabwe in Mike Campbell (PVT) Ltd and 78 others v. The Republic of Zimbabwe, (‘the Campbell case’). A new Protocol was adopted to reconstitute the Tribunal with limited jurisdiction at the 34 th Summit of SADC Heads of State or Government (‘the Summit’) held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from 17 to 18 August 2014, but has not yet entered into force (para18 Communiqué of the 34 th SADC Summit). The suspension of the Tribunal has been plagued by continued reluctance of SADC Member States to sanction Zimbabwe for its blatant noncompliance with the decisions of the Tribunal, and complex legal arguments that have their roots in the poor drafting of the SADC legal instruments.