South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled that Zimbabwean government-owned property in Cape Town should be sold to compensate former white commercial farmers who lost their land during the chaotic agrarian reforms that started in 2000.
AfriForum legal spokesman Willie Spies said this is the first time a decision by the regional tribunal will lead to the “execution of property belonging to a country accused of committing gross human rights violations.”
Spies told VOA the Zimbabwe government’s property in Kenilworth, Cape Town, worth US$300,000, is now set to be auctioned within the next eight weeks.
He said this is more of a symbolic victory for the farmers as they will each receive paltry amounts of money compared to what they have actually lost.
“The entitlement is actually a drop in the ocean compared to what they have actually lost because the losses of each and every farmer amount to $100 million on average.”
But Spies said the ruling is a ray of hope for his clients as the situation is desperate for white farmers in Zimbabwe.
“Even within the government of national unity the sentiment is that there is no room for white people in Zimbabwe, and that sentiment is expressed very vocally by both sides of the government of national unity which is quite a terrible situation.”
Meanwhile, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa was quoted late yesterday as saying Zimbabwe will seek political guidance on this issue from South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Mutasa said: “After this judgment, which is legal, we should let it go and we speak to the ANC and take a political decision. I hope that is possible.”
Harare lost the case with costs after it appealed a 2010 High Court judgement that registered and enforced a regional tribunal ruling which found the takeover of commercial farms to be illegal and racist.
Litigation began in 2008 when Zimbabwean farmer - the late Mike Campbell and 77 other commercial white farmers - took the matter to the Southern African Development Community Tribunal which ruled against Zimbabwe.
The regional court was suspended two years ago after SADC leaders demanded a review of its powers and functions following the series of cases in which it ruled against Harare. The tribunal effectively shut down recently.
Civil rights group, AfriForum, then assisted the farmers with legal action resulting in the registration of the tribunal’s findings in the South African High Court in 2010, leading to the attachment of Zimbabwean government-owned property in Cape Town.
However, a Zanu-PF leaning political commentator Livingstone Dzikira accuses the South African judiciary of being biased and racist saying the judgment has little significance as the land reform program in Zimbabwe is irreversible.
“This judgment for me is a slap in the face of those who claim South Africa is an independent country. The truth is that South Africa has been given political independence but their economy and judiciary is still dominated by white people.”
Dzikira said there were other ‘motives’ behind the class action being brought before the South African judiciary system.
“They were doing it for the sake of the millions of white South African farmers who are afraid that what happened in Zimbabwe might also happen in South Africa ...So they want that judgment to serve as a deterrent to forces in South Africa that are pushing for the expropriation of land without compensation.”
He said the initial SADC tribunal and this latest ruling by the South African courts “read together simply show that the former colonizers in Southern Africa are still bitter.”
Meanwhile, Spies said the Zimbabwean government still has the legal right to appeal in South Africa’s Constitutional Court, although he believes there are no grounds for this action.