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SA Court: Zimbabwe Should Pay for Seized Commercial Farms

The South African Constitutional Court has dismissed an appeal by Zimbabwe to repeal an order by the Southern African Development Community Tribunal saying Harare should compensate white farmers who lost their land during the country’s land reform exercise.

The SADC Tribunal ruling can be enforced by South African courts. Handing down the judgment Thursday, the South African Constitutional Court found that under SADC tribunal protocol, Zimbabwe was obliged as a member state to enforce judgments and orders of the tribunal.

In the judgement, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, "It also makes these decisions binding and enforceable within the territories of the states concerned”

The court said even though the SADC tribunal has since disbanded, South Africa, a SADC member state, can under common law enforce judgments and orders of international courts or tribunals.

Last year Zimbabwe sought to reverse the 2010 Gauteng High Court ruling compelling Harare to pay farmers or have its South African property attached.

Zimbabwe argued that South Africa could not enforce the ruling as it did not have jurisdiction over Harare. At the time of lodging their appeal, Attorney General Johannes Tomana charged that South Africa had over-stepped Zimbabwe’s diplomatic immunity in its judgment that governs sovereign states.

Once followed, each farmer affected by the land seizure is expected to get $20,000.

Director Nicole Fritz of the Southern African Letigation Centre said the judgment is monumental, but adds it will not set a precedence of enforcement of judgments between countries.

She said South Africa had not imposed itself on Zimbabwe, but merely enforced a ruling. Fritz added that it was notable to see that rulings made by the now defunct SADC Tribunal were being honored through out the region.

Zimbabwe is yet to give an official response.