Zimbabwean government’s attempt to sell seized property proves costly

via Zimbabwean government’s attempt to sell seized property proves costly | World news | theguardian.com by David Smith, Johannesburg Tuesday 17 September 2013

Victory for group of 78 dispossessed white farmers who now intend to pursue full compensation or return of properties

In the turbulent history of post-colonial Zimbabwe and its bitterly divisive land reform programme, an unremarkable house at 28 Salisbury Avenue, Kenilworth, Cape Town, has earned a surprising footnote.

The residence close to South Africa’s western tip is in fact Zimbabwean government property but was set to be auctioned off as the result of legal action brought by 78 white farmers who had been forced from the land in Zimbabwe’s “lost decade”.

Before it could be sold, however, Zimbabwe stepped in with a cheque for 200,000 rand (£12,822), giving the dispossessed farmers if not the last laugh then a rare moment of schadenfreude at the expense of the president, Robert Mugabe. They now intend to pursue full compensation or the return of their properties.

When about 6,000 white people controlled almost half of Zimbabwe’s land, only diehards could dispute that reform was needed. However, the brutal methods employed by “war veterans” in seizing the farms and evicting owners and their employees devastated the economy. Many holdings ended up in the hands of Mugabe cronies and loyalists with little agricultural know-how.

Among those who lost everything was Mike Campbell, who bought a 3,000-acre farm in Chegutu district in 1974. After challenging Mugabe in court, he and his family were abducted and beaten amid the election violence of 2008. Campbell, in his 70s, was finally evicted and his home burned a year later.

He took his case and that of 77 other farmers to an independent southern African tribunal and won. Its judges ruled that the land reform programme was discriminatory and against the rule of law and issued a 200,000 rand punitive costs order against the Zimbabwean government, as well as compensation for an unspecified amount. But Mugabe ignored it, the tribunal was dissolved and Campbell‚ whose story was told in the award-winning documentary Mugabe and the White African‚ died in 2011.

AfriForum, a lobby group in neighbouring South Africa, went to court there in a bid to force Zimbabwe to comply with the tribunal ruling. After a four-year legal battle, the constitutional court ruled in its favour, allowing the Cape Town house to be attached to cover the “debt to the farmers”. The property was occupied by tenants paying rent to the Zimbabwean government, which effectively meant that it was not protected by diplomatic immunity.

It was set to be auctioned last week – in a case said to be the first in which the assets of a country found guilty of human rights violations would be auctioned in a neighbouring state – but the Zimbabwean government “hastily” acceded to the punitive cost order, AfriForum said.

“While the punitive cost order is but a drop in the bucket of the losses inflicted on white farmers in Zimbabwe by president Robert Mugabe’s land grab programme, this outcome proves that the law does indeed provide a remedy,” the group said.

“The door has now been opened for further legal action to force Zimbabwe to compensate farmers for loss of property rights to their farms,” it added.

AfriForum argues that the Zimbabwean government is also liable for the farmers’ legal costs, estimated at between 2.5m and 3m rand (£192,344).

AfriForum lawyer Willie Spies said: “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.”

Another potential target for the legal action was the Zimbabwean consulate in central Cape Town, which at one point was reportedly abandoned and taken over by squatters living in filthy conditions without electricity or running water before being renovated. But Spies said this is no longer necessary.

A spokesman for the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa denied knowledge of the auction or settlement. “We are not aware of that, you are giving us news,” he said before hanging up.


  • comment-avatar
    ZimJim 9 years ago

    The last paragraph, (all 2 lines of it!) says it all…

  • comment-avatar
    Doris 9 years ago

    As the wife of a displaced elderly farmer, who with his family have lost absolutely everything in the land grab, this is now going to give hope that justice will prevail. Pay the compensation and gain Title Deeds without which the so-called new farmer has no security of tenure.

  • comment-avatar
    reason 9 years ago

    continue day dreaming, in the mean time the rightfull owners of the land are starting to enjoy the fruits. Thanks to Mugabe’s policies.

    • comment-avatar
      Rudadiso 9 years ago

      Reason, the 70 families evicted recently from a gokwe farm they had resided on since 2003, were they not thecrifhful owners? They are currently camped by the roadside with all their belongings without neither food, water nor there resources to travel back to the areas where they had originally ferried from.

      Tell mr reason, are Robert and Grace Mugabe the rightful owners of the 13 farms they took?

  • comment-avatar
    Mike Patterson 9 years ago

    In Reply to ‘Reason’please be aware that every dog has his day.

  • comment-avatar
    Mark Talbot 9 years ago

    How can the rightful owners be enjoying the fruits if they’ve been violently thrown off their land by violent criminals? Next, you will try to tell us that the land has been productive.

  • comment-avatar
    New farmer 9 years ago

    Wether we can farm or not we have a right to our God given land

  • comment-avatar
    ZimJim 9 years ago

    For every “dispossessed” farm owner there where dozens of workers who also lost everything!

    The whole idea was unjust and plainly insane.

    Not to mention the damage to the economy, food shortages, etc.

    I hope justice will prevail, preferably with the return of the land to the people who can feed the country! AND generate the foreign income so desperately needed.

  • comment-avatar

    go to britain for farm compensation

  • comment-avatar
    black african 7 years ago

    Whites should work for blacks on the land, advising them on how to to make the land productive….
    It’s our land yes, whites can come as advisors, & not to make our land theirs!!! Take it or leave it! !