[JURIST] Government officials in Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] said [Herald report] Monday that they will disregard a South African Development Community Tribunal [official website] ruling [JURIST report] that ordered Zimbabwe to halt its Land Reform Program [official website]. The tribunal held that the program's seizure of white-owned farms was racially motivated and therefore contrary to the Southern African Development Community [official website] treaty [DOC text], but Zimbabwean Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa [government profile] was quoted in Monday's Harare Herald as saying the program was justified because it corrected past racial disparities which had favored white farmers. Mutasa said the government would continue to operate the program and seize any remaining white-owned farms.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been harshly criticized [Guardian report] for his farm program, which since 2000 has sought to redistribute white-owned land among the nation's indigenous farmers. In February 2006, Mutasa said that, following controversial constitutional reforms, there are no longer any white farmers operating legally in Zimbabwe [JURIST report]. Many observers attribute Zimbabwe's disastrous economic circumstances - including an inflation rate exceeding 231,000,000 percent [Guardian report] - to the policy, under which previously productive farms have become barren under new inexperienced owners.