Chidyausiku defended land reform — Mugabe

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday hailed the late retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku for ruling that the government may acquire land and agriculture equipment seized from white-owned farms.

He told mourners at the burial of Chidyausiku at the Heroes' Acre — a national shrine in the shape of an AK47 assault rifle — that some of Zimbabwe's white farmers had hoped to successfully legally challenge the government's right to take the land and equipment as part of its controversial land redistribution policy but were stopped by the judge.

“The late chief justice came up with decisions which made our land reform programme possible, he applied a sharp legal mind to overturn the justice (Anthony) Gubbay judgments," Mugabe said.

In an unprecedented move, Chidyausiku, who was then judge president, overturned a ruling by then Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay that government should take all measures to protect the possessions and property of white farmers who challenged the legality of the contested land reform programme.

“The Third Chimurenga was resoundingly won thanks to the efforts of the likes of Chidyausiku.”

Mugabe, who got to the Heroes Acre around 1pm after arriving back home around 5am from Singapore, said Chidyausiku understood the land battle as he was in line to benefit.

Earlier, family spokesperson ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku said in his eulogy his late brother had just harvested 150 tonnes of tobacco.

“We have been told he was a farmer, but to us he was a hero who we were with in governance, though he was on the side of those we trusted to defend us in the land issue, because there were still those who were for whites who wanted to mess up everything, going to the courts, including the British courts," Mugabe said.

“When you have judges that understand you and who are afraid that they will also lose out if the land is taken away; they will defend the country as they will believe they are also defending themselves.

“As chief justice, the late ...Chidyausiku would be remembered for the most important role he played in defending and shaping the course of our land reform programme. There was violence and you know it, the white farmers did everything to derail it, and ended enlisting the support of the white bench, which was led by the likes of justice Gubbay, so we needed people like Chidyausiku to fight for us and resist the Gubbays as best as they could."

He hailed Chidyausiku for setting up the Judicial Services Commission — a panel of mostly senior judges and lawyers — that he said was his last act before retiring.

“The Judicial Commission that produced a list of chief justice contenders, they were competing, so we were given the three chosen ones after others were dropped and we were told to pick from the three,” Mugabe said, referring to process that led to him choosing Luke Malaba to replace Chidyausiku who had stepped down at the end of February.

The top jurist died in a South African hospital last week on Wednesday where he was receiving medical attention for liver and kidney related problems.

Mugabe, who described Chidyausiku as a distinguished and respected cadre, said his death caught him by surprise.

He said he was aware that he was unwell for the past two months, but never imagined it would turn for the worse.

He said the late retired chief justice studied law in the 70s when Africans were under colonial subjugation, leading to the guerrilla war against Ian Smith's regime.

He narrated how Chidyausiku got into politics, culminating in his participation in the 1979 Lancaster House talks that led to an agreement to end white rule in the former Rhodesia.

Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo headed the liberation fighters' delegation to the talks.

"Go well son of the soil...faithful servant who never deceived the nation and you never went astray...go well as a national hero and may you rest in eternal peace," Mugabe said.

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