SA house sold for evicted Zim farmers in ‘symbolic victory’

White farmers evicted from their land in Zimbabwe were celebrating Monday when a Zim government-owned house in Cape Town was sold to pay compensation, a lawyer involved in the case said.

The auction of the house, which went for R3.76-million, was the final step in a complicated case that has been fought through the South African courts for years by a group of Zimbabwean farmers.

It is unlikely, however, that the farmers will see any of the cash, which will mainly go to cover court costs, said lawyer Willie Spies.

If anything is left over, German bank group KFW Bank Gruppe, which joined the legal action and is believed to be owed tens of millions of dollars by President Robert Mugabe’s government, would take the lion’s share, he said.

“This is a symbolic victory and we will pursue other commercial properties owned by Zimbabwe,” said Spies, who represented the farmers through AfriForum, a mainly white civil rights group in South Africa.


“AfriForum regards its litigation against the Zimbabwe government as a civil sanction campaign against the ongoing and systemic abuse of human rights and the rule of law and the destruction of land ownership in Zimbabwe,” the group said in a statement.

Zimbabwe government representatives attended the auction, but did not bid, said Spies.

Wrongly-seized land
The case began with a ruling in 2008 by a tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which found that Zimbabwe had wrongly taken land from a group of nearly 80 farmers who brought the case, saying they had been targeted due to their race.

The tribunal, which was later disbanded, ruled they should be compensated.

Zimbabwe rejected the verdict, but a South African court ruled that it could be applied locally as South Africa was a member of SADC.

Zimbabwe fought the judgement through to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, which confirmed in a landmark judgement in 2013 that the farmers could sue in South African courts for compensation and attach Zimbabwe­ government assets in the country.

Three other Zimbabwean properties targeted by AfriForum were declared to be covered by diplomatic immunity, while the Cape Town house had been rented out commercially and was therefore liable to seizure, Spies said.

Case against Zuma
AfriForum is also assisting dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers in a separate lawsuit against President Jacob Zuma and his ministers of justice and international relations.

The lawsuit, Spies explained, “is in response to the South African government’s complicity in the illegal process that led to the suspension of the SADC Tribunal’s power to adjudicate on human rights abuses against citizens of member states”.

The case will be heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria early next year, said AfriForum.

Mugabe’s land reforms, launched in 2000 and accompanied by violent evictions of thousands of white farmers, were aimed at redistributing farms to landless black peple.

But critics say they mostly benefited the veteran leader’s cronies, led to a devastating drop in agricultural production and crippled the economy. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Surge in attempts to take land from white farmers in Zim

The Commercial Farmers' Union said there had been at least 20 "incidents" on white-owned properties in recent weeks, with some being asked to leave.

Zim: Farm seized, despite order

Robert Mugabe's top aide has flouted a high court ruling, leaving 75 people in tears – homeless and jobless.

‘Bitter’ villagers appeal to Mugabe to reverse eviction and land sale

Villagers who were resettled in Mabula in 1983 have been battling their eviction in court, and have now appealed to President Mugabe for assistance.

Zimbabwe’s forests are going up in smoke

The country's tobacco industry is recovering well – but at the expense of food and the environment.

Zim finance minister dismisses proposal to settle farmers’ claims

Zimbabwe's government is unlikely to entertain a proposal by a farmers' union, with Finance Minister Tendai Biti calling it an "elitist solution".

‘Only elite got rich in Bob’s land grab’

Mugabe and his allies have seized nearly half Zimbabwe's commercial farms in a land grab widely blamed for the economic collapse.
Advertising

Treasury presents Covid-19 corruption action plan

Reports of corruption, over-pricing and the delivery of sub-standard PPE have become the norm over the past five months as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic

Metro cops, SAPS clash over control

Tensions between the City of Cape Town and the police service over responsibilities mirrors the strain between national and local government
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday