Afriforum wins compensation over Zimbabwe land grab

Posted 17 September 2013 Written by Bekezela Phakathi
Category Justice

Lobby group AfriForum on Monday claimed victory in the long drawn-out battle to force the Zimbabwean government to compensate white farmers who lost their land during the infamous land seizures in Zimbabwe, according to Business Day.

On Monday, the auction of a house belonging to the Zimbabwean government in Kenilworth, Cape Town, was suspended after the Zimbabwean government "hastily" acceded to a punitive cost order of R200,000 to AfriForum on Friday.

The auctioning off of property belonging to the Zimbabwean government was made as part of a landmark legal ruling by the North Gauteng High Court in 2010.

According to AfriForum, Zimbabwe paid R200,000 into the trust account of the legal representatives of the lobby group. The Kenilworth property was occupied by tenants, which effectively meant that it was not protected by diplomatic immunity. AfriForum represents a group of white farmers who have been pushing for the Zimbabwean government to compensate them for the loss of their land. The punitive cost order was handed down by the tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in 2009.

The tribunal found in November 2008 that President Robert Mugabe’s "land grab" programme was unlawful.

AfriForum assisted the farmers who lost land during the land seizures to have the findings of the tribunal registered in South Africa and enforced after Zimbabwean courts refused to do so. After the successful registration of the tribunal order in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, properties belonging to the Zimbabwean government in Cape Town were attached for auction to cover the "debt to the farmers".

AfriForum legal adviser Willie Spies said the "door had now been opened" for further legal action to force Zimbabwe to compensate farmers for loss of property rights. "Zimbabwe did everything in its power to avoid accountability ... tried to have the process reversed in the high court, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Constitutional Court, but failed in every instance.

"The payment of the punitive cost order is a breakthrough for justice in the region. This is but the first step in our struggle for justice for Zimbabwean farmers. That struggle will continue," said Mr Spies.

Zimbabwe’s attorney-general, Johannes Tomana, on Monday declined to respond to questions and referred them to the foreign affairs ministry.

Update: reports that AfriForum will now institute legal action against President Robert Mugabe's administration on behalf of 78 farmers who lost their farms in state-endorsed land grabs several years ago.

Lawyer Willie Spies said the legal challenge was aimed at ensuring that the farmers got their land back or were adequately compensated for their loss.


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