The Pretoria High Court ruled on Thursday that a 2008 decision by the Southern African Development Community Tribunal finding that white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were illegally seized and ordering the former owners to be compensated should be recognized and enforced by South Africa's government.
High Court Judge Garth Rabie ruled in favor of white farmers represented by the AfriForum advocacy group who have argued all along that the seizure of their land without compensation was a human rights abuse.
Rabie said the SADC Tribunal ruling in favor of white commercial farmers who lost property in Zimbabwe to the land reform drive launched in 2000 by President Robert Mugabe should be registered, recognized and enforced by the South African government.
Commenting on the ruling, AfriForum attorney Willie Spies said the ruling was a major break for the farmers. "It is a moral victory," Spies told VOA. "The court ruled that Zimbabwe should honor this ruling. They, the farmers, are desperate."
Two tribunal rulings - in 2008 and 2009 - also declared that should compensation not be forthcoming, South Africa as a member of SADC could attach Zimbabwe's assets as compensation for the desperate farmers.
The Zimbabwean government has refused to recognize the SADC order protecting the property rights of those still on their farms. VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.
Political analyst Joy Mabhenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in Zimbabwe said that although the Pretoria ruling will be hard to enforce, it is a victory for farmers who have lost land since 2000.